Gary Smith is pleased that patience has paid off for “electric” attacker Hany Mukhtar after inspiring Nashville SC to another victory last time out.
Mukhtar scored twice in last week’s 3-1 win at New York City FC to make it 10 points from the last 12 on offer for Nashville, who are third in the Eastern Conference.
The Boys in Gold are 11 points clear of the playoff line and Mukhtar has played as big a part as anyone in what has been a fine campaign.
“He’s electric at the moment. Absolutely electric,” Smith said. “When he’s on the ball it looks like things are going to happen. You can sense that expectation from the fans.
“He’s so confident. When you think about his development over the course of 18 months, he’s moved into another gear.
“When things weren’t going well last year, it sometimes takes that patience and that connection to get the very best out of someone. He’s certainly playing at a wonderful level now.”
Montreal have themselves hit a good patch of form with two wins and two ties from their last four games, keeping them well positioned in the top seven of the Eastern Conference.
Wilfried Nancy’s side beat rivals Toronto FC 3-1 in their last match, but the atmosphere for Saturday’s visit of Nashville may not be as raucous.
Following incidents including violence, intimidation and unauthorized pyrotechnics, Montreal have announced they are closing a section of Stade Saputo indefinitely.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CF Montreal – Djordje Mihailovic
United States international Mihailovic set up Romell Quioto’s goal against Toronto and has now assisted a goal in each of Montreal’s last three home matches. The only players to assist a goal in four straight home matches in the club’s history, including playoff games, are Blerim Dzemaili in 2017 and Ignacio Piatti in October 2015.
Nashville SC – CJ Sapong
Mukhtar’s success this season has been in part down to the rapport he has developed with Sapong alongside him, the pair brilliantly mixing power and speed in attack. Sapong’s figures have been almost as impressive as Mukhtar’s in 2021, in fact, having scored nine and assisted four more in 22 appearances.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Nashville and Montreal drew each of their first two meetings this season, both played in Nashville. The only other meeting between the sides was won 1-0 by Nashville in Harrison, New Jersey, in October 2020.
– Montreal are unbeaten in four straight matches (W2 D2) following a 3-1 win over rival Toronto on August 27. Montreal have just one winning streak since the start of last season, running off three straight victories in July this season.
– Nashville have won consecutive matches for the first time this season after a 3-1 victory over New York City FC last week. Nashville had recorded draws following each of their first seven victories this season.
– Mukhtar’s brace against New York City FC took him to 10 goals on the season, surpassing Sapong (nine) for the team lead for Nashville. Nashville are one of two teams (New England – G. Bou 12, A. Buksa 10) with multiple players with at least nine goals this season.