Nashville SC player Hany Mukhtar has opened up on his recent success with the Major League Soccer side after a disappointing debut season in 2020, explaining it was difficult adjusting to a “new country and a new league”.
Mukhtar signed with the league’s newest expansion team in August 2019 as the first ever Designated Player, completing a move from Brondby ahead of Nashville’s debut season.
While he showed occasional moments of brilliance, the midfielder found it difficult to balance a new country and league amid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a new country for me, a new league,” Mukhtar said. “I didn’t know anyone. The first year was good, but now it’s been a really good season. I like the guys and we have great players.”
Head coach Gary Smith stuck with the player despite disappointing numbers initially, banking on his potential once he settled in.
“There were a number of different reasons we didn’t quite see the individual we expected [in 2020], even though there were flashes of it and he was still a big part of the group,” head coach Gary Smith said.
“What we’ve seen this year is someone who’s much more confident, settled, composed and comfortable in his surroundings. Not just the city he’s in, but the team he is with and the fluidity (he and his teammates) have.”
Now, it seems Mukhtar has become quite comfortable with the American league and begun generating MVP buzz. The midfielder has scored 10 goals and nine assists in 22 matches, becoming a regular in the starting 11.
“When I can get goals and assists, it’s always good,” Mukhtar said. “The new position has helped because I’m closer to the opponent’s goal. It’s making me more dangerous. For me, it’s very important the team is successful, not the individual. I just want to show everyone that I’m in a good way. There’s still time in the season. I need to work harder and get better.”
Nashville currently trails behind the New England Revolution in second place with 41 points in 23 matches and a record of 10-11-2. With 12 regular-season games remaining, Nashville has almost secured their spot in the 2021 MLS playoffs.