It often takes a year or so to adjust to life in MLS; just ask Hany Mukhtar.
The former German youth international, signed with great fanfare, scored just four goals and three assists over 15 games during the regular season in what turned out to be a severely disrupted 2020 campaign.
But Mukhtar has been another beast in 2021. Now fully acclimatized to the league, the 26-year-old has 15 goals and 10 assists (according to WhoScored) on his way into Decision Day, making Nashville third in the East. with an undefeated home record.
Many now see him as Carles Gil’s closest challenger for the MVP award, and although Mukhtar’s main focus is on taking Nashville to the MLS Cup, he admits he also has his eye on the individual award.
“It would be a great honor,” he told Broadway Sports. “I would be lying if I said otherwise. Obviously, you can not be the best player if your team does not win and you have a bad season. First of all, I want to be successful, go as far as possible and hopefully win the cup. And then yes, if I win the MVP I will be very happy and grateful. ”
Given that he has been the creative hub of a record-breaking New England Revolution team, Gil remains the MVP favorite. But Nashville head coach Gary Smith believes Mukhtar is an “incredible candidate”, highlighting how “talismanic” he is towards the rest of the group.
Goal number 15 for Hany Mukhtar @ NashvilleSC ties it together. ? pic.twitter.com/WXp4IDCvEX
– Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 31, 2021
“If I’m not mistaken, the criteria for an MVP is someone who not only scores goals, but can perhaps be encapsulated as a talisman for his group, someone who leads that group,” Smith said. “I think he has shown as many qualities or more than anyone else this year who is in shape. There are some guys who have not played all season but who are in very, very good teams.
“But let’s just look at what he has achieved in a second-year group. For me, it makes him an incredible candidate.”
Nashville’s last task for the regular season is to try to secure second place in the Eastern Conference. Smith’s team is on a par with the Philadelphia Union on its way to Decision Day, where they host the New York Red Bulls. The Union travels to the NYCFC.
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