Storylines, Presented by BMW

Storylines presented by BMW

Storylines presented by BMW - Bongokuhle Hlongwane - August 10 2023

Storylines is back and still in the process of its extended sigh of relief after the Loons were once again able to pull victory back from the brink. After regulation ended in a 2-2 draw with Toluca FC, the fellas faced their second consecutive shootout to decide their tournament fate. Thankfully, as fate would have it, the Loons would face that big-time pressure and persevere over the Leagues Cup’s highest-scoring team by way of a 4-2 Penalty Kick victory. Obviously, withstanding that kind of intense pressure is what it takes to reach the Quarterfinals of a tournament that’s flush with talented teams. It’s also a lot easier to manage that kind of pressure when your club’s biggest stars show up and shine in those moments. For one, goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has proven himself well-equipped for these “sudden death” scenarios of tournament play. The other Loons star that’s shined bright enough to scar somebody’s retinas is South Africa’s favorite son, the force that is Bongokuhle. Freaking. Hlongwane.

His transition from potential to powerhouse has been incredible to watch over the course of this season, but during this Leagues Cup run, the young wing has simply been scorching the net with pace aplenty. In fact, according to the club’s history, Bongi’s scoring pace is historically hot. Sure, other Loons have had similar streaks of dominance. One of those notable performances for the club came from Bongi’s current attacking-partner-in-crime, Emanuel Reynoso. His arrival during the regular season was an important precursor to the Loons deep postseason run to the 2020 Western Conference Championship of the MLS Cup Playoffs. But, unlike Bongi, much of el Rey’s dominance was in creating quality scoring opportunities for others, racking up seven total assists through the Loons three-game playoff stretch. The other stretch of individual domination that comes to mind was 2019, when forward Darwin Quintero tore his way through the US Open Cup and scored a total of six goals over four tournament games. 

Both great performances, but for Bongi’s Leagues Cup run, he is quite literally beyond compare. As in, for the first time in the club’s entire MLS history, Bongkuhle Hlongwane is the only player to record a brace (or more) in three consecutive matches. Like…daaang. For a long time, the Loons have tried, failed, and tried again to find a player that can be the kind of dangerous, dynamic scorer that can keep an opponent’s defensive unit on its heels, match to match, for the full 90 and beyond. Aside from needing maybe a little extra training on those PK attempts, Bongi Hlongwane’s Leagues Cup breakout is further evolving this team and the fans’ belief in what it can truly be capable of from an attacking standpoint. And, the kid’s not even done yet and I, for one, can’t wait to see him try to top himself again against Nashville.

PS - I’m just going to leave this screengrab of the Leagues Cup leading goal scorers right here for the amusement of Loons fans. That is all.

Screenshot 2023-08-09 at 5.25.29 PM


Nashville SC vs. Minnesota United FC

08.11.2023 | Leagues Cup | Quarterfinals

GEODIS Park | Nashville, TN | Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.