Monitoring the Midfield

Holden and Diskerud Enjoy Mixing It Up Together

Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud thrived during their 45 minutes playing together against Guatemala. The central midfield pair helped engineer the five-goal second half, in which the U.S. thoroughly dominated.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
July 07, 2013
9:10 AM
SAN DIEGO—After a week of training in which all four of his central midfielders were playing at a “very, very high level,” Jurgen Klinsmann decided everyone deserved to play an entire half.

Kyle Beckerman and Jose Torres mostly did what they set out to do, staying compact and keeping the Guatemalans from maintaining possession. But it was the second half pairing of Stuart Holden and Mix Diskerud that provided a bit of flash for the national team, with five of the team’s goals in a 6-0 win against Guatemala coming in the second half.

“It was fun,” Diskerud said. “I got to play the second half, and we scored a lot of goals, so that was of course a little extra thing to look at, so it was good.”

The goals came in part because of the duo pushing forward with Holden combining especially well with players in attack. It was a pleasant sight for the midfielder who has been kept off the pitch the past two years because of multiple knee surgeries. He didn’t show any signs of being hampered Friday night.

“You get out there, you get the ball moving and with every touch, with every pass that you connect, your confidence comes back more and more, and you really start to find yourself into the game,” Holden said. “For me, it was a seamless transition, and Jurgen spoke about it a lot in the last four weeks that guys know what’s expected of them in their roles. Not only the starters, the guys that are going to replace them, everyone’s on the same page, so that’s a real big quality of our team.”

The level of comfort Holden felt came through Friday night, but it hasn’t come overnight. Holden has had a long road back, as fans know from his social media updates during his rehabilitation. After the match, Klinsmann said Holden’s continual progress is evident to those in the team.

“Every training session he gets more confident, and once he kind of starts to relax mentally a little bit and picks up the flow of the game, then he can play those balls,” he said. “He hit some wonderful passes there, and that’s his game. So he’s on his way back, and every day we’ll get better.”

For his part, Holden said being eased back into the national team gave him “that extra confidence boost and that extra sharpness, and I really felt that out there tonight.”

The manager was criticized in March for not notifying players when or where they’d be playing until the very late stages of game preparation. That wasn’t the case with this friendly, and both Holden and Diskerud said it helped knowing ahead of time that they’d play 45 minutes.

“I just wanted to be prepared, and I knew I was going to play with Stuart, so we talked a little bit about what we were supposed to do,” Diskerud said. “It helped looking at the first half to see what we could do better.”

Klinsmann is fond of both Beckerman and Torres but has also spoken about the different styles of teams the U.S. will face in the Gold Cup. It’s not unreasonable to think both pairings could see time during the tournament. Both Diskerud and Holden enjoy going forward and playing defensively but said they eased into a good partnership as the second half progressed. Holden also mentioned he’s relishing the opportunity to be a leader.

“It’s fun because I’m a veteran with the two of us,” he said. “It’s kind of a new role for me and one that I enjoyed, being more vocal with him and obviously trying to use my experience that I’ve had playing in the national team and in the Premier League to kind of form a good partnership with him. I can see at the start maybe both of us were going forward a bit, but I feel at the end we had a great balance. If that’s the pairing in the midfield, I’m happy to play with him. He’s a very talented player.”

The partnership is a nice story but would be a moot point if Klinsmann elects to go in a different direction during the tournament. It’s still within the realm of possibility that Diskerud suits up for Norway, as he’s yet to be cap-tied, but if he gets into the Gold Cup he’ll officially become locked to the U.S.

“We’ll see. It’s Jurgen’s decision now if he wants to cap-tie me or not, but I’m ready,” he said.

And while Holden said getting back on the field is nice, it’s more revenge on his mind than redemption.

“I think it’s more of, as competitors we’re not happy as the last two Gold Cups have gone to Mexico, so guys have a point to prove personally. But on a team note and as a nation we want to win the Gold Cup,” he said. “We want it back on our home soil."

"We really have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and we have something to prove'" Holden continued. "We’re not happy being second best, and we’re in first place in CONCACAF qualifying right now, but the main priority right now is the Gold Cup.”

Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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