MLS winners and losers: Another Hany Mukhtar MVP campaign, back to reality for Galaxy and more

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 28: Nashville SC midfielder Hany Mukhtar (10) takes a shot during a match between Nashville SC and Columbus Crew, May 28, 2023 at GEODIS Park in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Hany Mukhtar, the reigning MVP and Golden Boot winner, looks set on making some more MLS history. (Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Action is starting to pick up in Major League Soccer as we quickly approach the halfway point of the season. It might seem like struggling teams have a lot of time to make up ground, but points and certain games are starting to become a bit more important. Here’s a look at what went down in Week 15.


Hany Mukhtar: What Mukhtar has done since arriving to MLS has been nothing short of spectacular. The reigning MVP and Golden Boot winner finished last season with 23 goals and 11 assists, and it doesn’t seem like he has any plans of slowing down. In just 15 games this season he already has nine goals and seven assists.

The German closed out Nashville’s 3-1 win over Columbus with another highlight-reel worthy goal to add to the collection. While it would be nice for him to get some help on the offensive end, watching him dominate like this is just fine too. No player in league history has ever won consecutive MVP awards, and Preki is the only one to have won it twice (1997, 2003). Mukhtar looks like he has his mind set on making some more history.

Toronto FC and Bob Bradley: To say the past week was chaotic for Toronto would be an understatement. It all started with Federico Bernardeschi criticizing the Reds’ style of play, or lack thereof, after the latest loss to Austin. It was a direct shot at head coach Bob Bradley to pile onto an already messy start to the season. Bradley responded that the benching of Bernardeschi was a “coach’s decision.” An exposé from The Athletic on Friday revealed some jarring information about the dysfunction from top to bottom, players not being united and displeasure with Bradley.

So how would underperforming Lorenzo Insigne and his peers respond? Only with their best game of the season, of course, securing the 2-1 win over D.C. United. Insigne delivered his most convincing performance in a Toronto shirt, finishing with a pair of assists and actually looking engaged throughout. While most of the focus will be on the Italians, having both goal scorers Saturday be 20-year-olds is a fresh change.

There is no doubt that a lot still has to be addressed and fixed in Toronto, but perhaps this can be a spark after dealing with so much adversity. Defender Matt Hedges told the "MLS 360" crew after the win that the tough week lit a fire for the Reds. This victory was about so much more than just 3 points.

Houston Dynamo: Hector Herrera is finally looking like the star player the Houston Dynamo expected him to be, and unsurprisingly it's leading to winning futbol. Smashing Minnesota United 4-0 in U.S. Open Cup to start the week was nice, ending it with a 2-1 win over rival Austin FC was even sweeter. The star Mexican scored the opening goal in the first half and helped set up the winner in the 87th minute.

Houston has put a nice little stretch of games together as it has lost only two of the last eight. It has yet to get one on the road, but the 5-1-1 home record has the Dynamo right in the mix in a crowded West.

Miguel Perez: City homegrown Miguel Perez just turned 18 a month ago and is living the good life. On Thursday, he graduated from high school. On Saturday, he scored his first career MLS goal in stoppage time of a 3-1 win over Vancouver, which sent CITYPARK into absolute chaos.

St. Louis continues to exceed expectations as it became the fastest expansion club in league history to reach 25 points. A young talent having such an impact is a testament to how St. Louis has found success from early development in the academy to constructing a competitive roster. And out of all of his friends who he said he was probably going to hang out with after the game, there’s no chance anybody had a better graduation gift.

“It's our job now as coaches, as parents, as people, teammates around the locker room to keep him guided and focused as he continues his journey,” said head coach Bradley Carnell. “Who knows where his ceiling is. But we are excited to be around Miggy and to guide Miggy along this pathway.”

Gyasi Zardes: Zardes became the 13th MLS player to reach the 100 regular-season goals mark. Aside from the historic feat, him finding the net is crucial to Austin FC's success this season. Unfortunately for him, the moment came in a losing effort for the club, but was still monumental nonetheless.


LA Galaxy: The emotions of beating that young LAFC team in U.S. Open Cup were short-lived for the Galaxy. Saturday was a reminder of the nightmare they’re living in as they fell 1-0 at home to Charlotte.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who has not been good this season, was sent off after receiving his second yellow card following a nasty studs-up challenge. His first card for kicking the ball and wasting time out of frustration was easily avoidable, as many of the Galaxy’s self-inflicted wounds seem to be.

CARSON, CA - MAY 27: Javier Hernandez #14 of the Los Angeles Galaxy is knocked to the ground during a regular season game between Charlotte FC and Los Angeles Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park on May 27, 2023 in Carson, California. (Photo by Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Javier Hernandez and the LA Galaxy continue to struggle this season. (Photo by Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Not much is changing week after week and the mentality of the club is just scrambled. Head coach Greg Vanney says it isn’t about tactics or a divided locker room, but that doesn’t sit well when you’re at the bottom of the standings and continue losing games.

“This is our job. If you're not fully focused then why are you doing this?” asked midfielder Mark Delgado after the loss.

Delgado also mentioned players having to be able to not let ego get in the way. It isn’t difficult to read between the lines. This is a burning house and right now nobody is safe.

Portland Timbers: It seemed like maybe the Timbers were finally starting to turn the corner a bit after a bumpy start, but winless in the last three matches with just a single goal scored is rough.

Traveling to Kansas City is never an easy task, and it certainly was one they weren’t up for as they were outplayed and dejected in the 4-1 loss versus SKC on Sunday. That lack of consistency is going to haunt this team because these aren’t the Timbers of the past that can rely on Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco to help fix problems.

The good thing for Portland is nine teams make the playoffs now and head coach Giovanni Savarese is more than battle-tested in dealing with tough situations in this league. The bad thing for Portland is its next match is a trip to visit rival Seattle, which is currently sitting atop of the Western Conference.

Inter Miami: Inter Miami and Montreal caught many by surprise in mid-April with a trade that sent Kamal Miller to South Florida in exchange for Bryce Duke and Ariel Lassiter. Since then Miami has plummeted to the bottom of the standings while Montreal has stayed afloat, with Duke playing an important role in enhancing its attack.

Arguing who won the trade isn’t necessary, but with the teams facing off against each other this weekend it was a perfect chance for a petty reminder. Lassiter took full advantage as he entered a scoreless game to start the second half and instantly got a shot on target. A few minutes later he delivered a great ball across the box to assist the lone goal in the 1-0 victory. Advantage: Montreal.