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Direct from Europe

Could 2013 Be the Year of Mix Diskerud?

The young, skillful midfielder seems poised for a breakout season with the United States national team. ASN's Europe correspondent Asher Kohn examines where Diskerud fits into the program.
BY Asher Kohn Posted
January 17, 2013
7:06 AM

Jurgen Klinsmann's January camp roster is heavy on Major League Soccer prospects, but the player with perhaps the greatest opportunity to blossom into a starring role for the United States national team is a young man from Norway.

Mix Diskerud, a dual-citizen with an American mother and Norwegian father, comes from the tradition of Mort Gamst Pedersen and Skolsjaer, but the Norwegian national team hasn't made it to an international tournament since the latter's “golden generation” was bounced in the group stage of the 2000 UEFA Euros. The 22-year-old midfielder wants to play for the U.S. and has done so in the past, most recently scoring against Russia.

With both country and club, 2013 could be a huge year for Diskerud. The potential transfer target certainly has proved himself in the Tippeligaen, as he featured in 19 of Rosenborg's final 23 games including the group stages of Europa League. Former manager Jan Jonsson convinced Diskerud to turn pro at 18 and brought him to Staebek and then to Rosenborg. Jonsson's firing from the latter that probably has opened Diskerud's eyes to leaving Norway. That said, there's something to be said for the polish he's gained in his native country. His ability to be at the right place at the right time is not just a knack but rather a special blend of awareness and pace. A well-weighted right foot doesn't hurt. Or left, as seen at 1:11 of that clip:

Caleb Porter, Diskerud's manager on the U-23 squad, respected the right foot of his charge enough to have the midfielder take corners and more than a few free kicks. Juan Aguedelo also noted the talent, saying that “Mix is always going to be able to play great balls into the near post.” During Olympic qualifying, Diskerud emphasized his enthusiasm for “one and two-touch soccer,” explaining how much fun he found Porter's system. That enthusiasm has continued with the senior team. After Diskerud's extra-time equalizer against Russia, what is most obvious—besides Diskerud and Aguedelo celebrating with appropriate gusto—is Diskerud's dedication to the structure of the play. Instead of rushing forward to meet the ball, he stops running. The three Russian defenders rush back to mark Boyd, Aguedelo on the left wing, and Clarence Goodson as the header threat. Diskerud lingers two yards off the box to take Boyd's header back and strike it off the volley. That takes more than pace and fitness. It takes awareness and trust in your teammates.

The "one and two touch" play that Diskerud enjoys is exactly how Klinsmann wants to see his team play. The coach said keys for the January included consistency from players and a greater sense of professionalism. It sounds like a situation in which Diskerud can thrive. The fitness, awareness, and trust that the midfielder possesses encapsulates what Klinsmann is trying to bring to the national team. The German hopes to put together an squad that has the speed to stretch opponents and the guile to know how to get to the enemy's soft belly once it's exposed. With more experience, Diskerud can be the knife in the coach's hands.

World Cup qualification is the American focus at the moment, and Diskerud will be an asset in the next couple of months when the MLS begins and the UEFA season is winding down. His Norwegian league goes from late March to November, giving him flexibility that others may not have. (Of course, the transfer situation could throw that all out of whack.) Diskerud is currently unproven, but his skillset–speed and cleverness, with a sturdy, six-foot frame–is one that is in short supply on the ASN 100. His floor is probably the sort of change-of-pace sub that Benny Feilhaber was in 2010. He can bring energy at the 60-minute mark and run into a few crosses and headers, as he's done so far in his three USMNT caps and four in the U-23 run-up to Olympic qualification. But perhaps if we look a bit farther afield he can be like his beloved step-countryman Ole Gunnar Solskjaer; a baby-faced murderer who comes at the opponent until the latter's unfortunate exhaustion.

The most in-depth and frank interview with Diskerud so far has been from a Belgian reporter in 2012, during his trial with KAA Ghent in front of a ravenous crowd of three or four:

At the 1:53-mark Diskerud proves his worth. He calls it “soccer” and says he can bring in a lot of energy and a bit of flair. Sounds like a perfect fit going forward.

Other News and Notes

  • Staying in Norway, Joshua Gatt's (and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's) Molde won the Tippeligaen by four points over Stromsgodset. Rosenborg sits in third at 55 points. Only the top team will go on to the Champions League, and the second- and third-place teams play in the Europa League.
  • Brondby, captained by 30-year-old Clarence Goodson, had a terrible year and finished ninth in the 12-yeam Danish Superliga. 2012 marked the first time since 1992 that Brondby did not win any trophy or medal in the entire season. Instead, the season was marked by the bankruptcy of their owner and general financial woes.

    Asher Kohn is ASN's European correspondent.

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