Nashville SC's Hany Mukhtar is having a stellar season in the club's second season in MLS. Named after U.S. and MLS legend Landon Donovan who won the award twice, the Landon Donovan award is given to Major League Soccer's most valuable player.
MVP is typically an award given to attackers and midfielders; the only other player to ever win the award is GK Tony Meola in 2000. Defenders do not win this award as they have their own 'Defender of the Year' award which Nashville's Walker Zimmerman won last season.
When Nashville signed Mukhtar in August of 2020 as the team's first designated player, there were very high expectations. Prior to his move to Nashville, he spent time in the Bundesliga with Hertha and Salzburg as well as with Benifca in Portgual and Brøndby IF in Denmark, all clubs in the top tier of soccer in their country.
While last season was not great for Mukhtar as often times he seemed out of touch with the rest of the attack, he still led the team in goals + assists with 8. This season, Mukhtar has not only lived up to last season's expectations that came with being the clubs first designated player but he has the second most Goals + Assists in MLS with 23.
Just a few weeks ago, he led in this stat but missed the game in Philadelphia due to yellow card accumulation and have had other players, especially DC's Ole Kamara and New England's Charles Gil, pull ahead in major statistical categories.
Reoccurring Nashville spectators can tell that Hany Mukhtar has been the team's most influential and skilled players. In my eyes, he has three skills which set him apart from the competition and puts him among the league's best players:
Hany Mukhtar's control, whether it is his first touch or incredibly controlled dribbling, is extremely smooth. He has the best control on the team and on many occasions, the quality of his touch is hard to fathom.
Mukhtar has drawn 58 fouls on the season which is proof that defenders struggle to keep up with him. His 35 successful dribbles rank him highly among the league's top goal scorers (highest on the team by 14) and they lead to many high quality chances for Nashville.
Mukhtar's vision is one of his most underrated characteristics. He has a knack for goal but knows when to pass up opportunities to put teammates in an even better position.
His ability his highlighted by his 9 assists as well as the 40 goal contributions this season between Mukhtar, Randall Leal, and C.J. Sapong. He is also creative getting the ball to his teammates as he uses back heels and flicks; something very important to attacking success in soccer.
When Mukhtar is in on goal, I fully expect him to score every time. He scores many unlikely goals but still consistently finishes the ones he should score.
His finishing is extremely important to Nashville and comes at very clutch times such as his late equalizer against Columbus last week. He also has games where he singlehandedly carries Nashville's attack such as the 2-2 draw against Atlanta in May and the 5-1 win over Chicago in July.
If you take the term 'Most Valuable Player' literally, Mukhtar is certainly in the discussion for the award. He constantly dictates Nashville's attack and is crucial in the team's success. While there are players with more goals and assists, Mukhtar is the perfect mix and a high quality #10.
I am not confident that Mukhtar will win the award but he is more than deserving to be a finalist and is having an incredibly successful individual season.
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