Sometimes, you’re just feeling it. And Hany Mukhtar was very much feeling it on Saturday night.
Nashville SC’s first Designated Player vaulted himself into the spotlight of the global soccer community with a hat trick within the first 16 minutes of a 5-1 drubbing of Chicago Fire FC. It was the fastest hat trick from kickoff in Major League Soccer history, and the first hat trick ever by a Nashville SC player in MLS. Mukhtar scored in the 10’, 13’ and 16’ minutes to make history.
Head Coach Gary Smith was thrilled to see such an incredible output from such an important player.
“I am absolutely delighted for him,” Smith said. “He has been extremely bright as well as the other two guys up front [CJ Sapong and Randall Leal]. They have really given us purpose and a boost to our frontline. When you are at home, you desperately want to score goals. He certainly has been productive for us at home, and we are going to run into some games away from home now that present some challenges, but as part of that attacking group, he has been a real catalyst not just for his own gain, but for us as well. I couldn’t be more delighted for him.”
Each Mukhtar goal was more eye-popping than the last. His first was a tidy finish off of a turnover at the back by Chicago. The second was a wonderful build-up capped off by a set of step-overs and perfect low shot to the far corner. And the third was a world-class free kick that just kissed the crossbar on its way past Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Aside from the historical significance of his individual performance and the quality of his goals, Mukhtar said he was thrilled to help his team capitalize on its offensive opportunities.
“I think that from the beginning you could feel that we wanted to win, and we had to win,” Mukhtar said. “Obviously in our last home games we were always the better team, but we couldn't create our chances into goals. That is partially our responsibility, Me, CJ, and Randall. We are offensive players; we need to score, and we need to create chances.”
With his three goals on the night, Mukhtar vaulted himself into the conversation for the MLS Golden Boot, given to the league’s leading scorer. He is currently tied with four other players for third in the league in scoring with seven goals, only trailing the 10 goals of LA Galaxy’s Chicharito and Seattle Sounders’ Raúl Ruidíaz.
However, Mukhtar says he’s not too worried about his individual accolades, and more worried about earning points for his team.
“I never think on stuff like that,” Mukhtar said. “For me, I am a team player. I want to win and I want to be as successful as possible with Nashville, that’s why I’m here. Like I said, I like to score goals. That’s part of my job. But, in the end, the most important thing is to win. If we win and I don’t score, I am still happy.”
Mukhtar and the Boys in Gold are hitting the road to face defending MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew on Wednesday night, before returning home on Saturday to face FC Cincinnati. Click here to get tickets for Saturday night’s match.