HIGHLIGHTS: Nashville SC vs. Chicago Fire FC | July 17, 2021
Nashville got off to a roaring start and never looked back, with Mukhtar making some history by striking for three goals in the first 16 minutes, the fastest an MLS player has ever managed a hat trick to start a match. The hosts would add two more goals before it was all said and done, aided by 14th-minute red card to Chicago center back Johan Kappelhof that forced the Fire to play down a man for most of the night.
Nashville got their opener right on 10 minutes after a giveaway at the back from Chicago that was collected by CJ Sapong and dished off to Mukhtar. The Designated Player attacker ensured the mistake would be punished with a clinical finish past Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. And he then wasted no time getting the second, using some nifty stepovers in the box to free himself up for another finish, this time beating Shuttleworth to the far post.
Matters only got worse for Chicago as Kappelhoff was sent off for denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity just one minute after Mukhtar's second goal for pulling Sapong down while he was on a breakaway run on goal. The Fire were dealt the double blow of seeing the defender sent off, and then conceding a third goal on the ensuing free kick, which Mukhtar cashed home with a highlight-reel bending free kick from just outside the area.
Nashville continued to pour it on, as Sapong struck for a fourth in the 39th minute. The veteran forward pounced on a rebound opportunity after Randall Leal smashed his initial shot from the right side off the post, slotting home his third goal of the season.
The Fire pulled one back just after second-half kickoff, when Ignacio Aliseda found a tap-in finish off a cross from Przemyslaw Frankowski, but Nashville continued to own most of the second half, getting their fifth in the 62nd minute. It was Brian Anunga who continued the onslaught, first-timing home a feed from Dylan Nealis from the top of the area for what would mercifully stand as the game's final goal.
- THE BIG PICTURE: This was one of those matches that was over before it ever even really started, as Nashville were all over Chicago's defense from the jump, giving the Fire no chance to recover between Mukhtar's early barrage and Kappelhof's red card. It's the type of comprehensive performance at home Gary Smith's group have been waiting for and will hope to build on, as they'd drawn five times at Nissan Stadium so far this season coming into the match. On the other side, it's an unfortunate step back for a Chicago team that had been playing better the past couple of weeks after a tough start to the season, and never really gave themselves a chance thanks to the disastrous start to the match.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Mukhtar's hat trick was both a historic accomplishment and the catalyst behind the lopsided score line.
Six-minute hat trick! Hany Mukhtar scores incredible treble
- MAN OF THE MATCH: The night belonged to Mukhtar, who really could have had at least five, as he had another goal called off in the second half for offside and was at the center of multiple other dangerous chances. The 26-year-old took some criticism last season for perhaps not stuffing the stat sheet at the rate expected of a Designated Player, but the same can't be said for him this year, as this explosive effort brings him up to seven goals through his first 12 games.