Direct from Vienna
Midfielder Mix Diskerud Made Huge Strides in 2013
A fringe player when the year began, the Norwegian-American playmaker established himself as a steady contributor for the U.S. national team in 2013. Is a World Cup invite next?
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedVIENNA—When the Hexagonal World Cup qualifying tournament began in February, Steve Cherundolo and Timothy Chandler were the top right backs. Carlos Bocanegra wore the armband as the team's captain, and Danny Williams started in the midfield. Herculez Gomez played a key role in the attack while Landon Donovan's future was in limbo. Nine months later, the American side is enjoying its best season ever, having won the Gold Cup and qualifying easily for the 2014 World Cup. But many of the players who began the year with the first unit have been replaced. Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are now the first-choice starters in central defense. Aron Johannsson looks like the team’s best striker. Landon Donovan is back. And the midfield has been rejuvenated by the likes of Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud. For Diskerud, 23, this was the sort of year many expected of him when he first began playing for the United States at the U-20 level in 2009. United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named Diskerud to his Gold Cup roster and the Norwegian-American has been a consistent contributor to the squad ever since. What's more, Diskerud has become something of a good luck charm for the Americans. The United States has never lost a match that Diskerud has appeared in, and his personal record with the national team is 12-0-3. "It's been a huge year,” Diskerud told American Soccer Now. “It's been kind of my breakthrough as you can say. To be part of the Gold Cup and from there it's just been upwards. I've been part of every camp since them. It's been fun and a year with a lot of wins as well." The highlight of Diskerud's year came in September when the Yanks clinched a World Cup spot with a 2-0 win over arch-rival Mexico. In that game, Diskerud had a highlight reel assist when he beat his man on the right side and found Donovan in front of the goal for an open score. On Friday against Scotland, Diskerud came on in the 62nd minute of a 0-0 draw. Prior to him entering the game, the U.S. looked lethargic and lacking in ambition, but the game changed when he came on alongside Brek Shea and Aron Johannsson. From that point on the U.S. had the better chances and had more possession in midfield. If Diskerud is to see minutes next summer at the World Cup, a big test will be for him to develop chemistry with the team's other starting central midfielders, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. With Klinsmann preferring the 4-2-3-1 formation, Jones and Bradley sit in front of the defense leaving Diskerud to play centrally in a more attacking role. Diskerud respects the experience of Jones and Bradley and he often spends time with them during national team camps, picking their brains and following their lead. "Every day I try to learn from them," Diskerud said of Bradley and Jones. "They're professional players both on and off the field. I see what they do and try to do it myself. It's very, very much a learning experience." Born in Norway to an American mother and a Norwegian father, Diskerud is a dual-national who had options when it came to his international play. He played occasionally with Norwegian youth teams during his teenage years, participating in friendlies and even playing against the United States at one point. In 2009 Diskerud made the decision to play exclusively for the United States after U.S. Under-20 head coach Thomas Rongen invited him to that year's World Cup in Egypt. Diskerud made his national team debut at the end of 2010 for a friendly against South Africa, where he assisted on Juan Agudelo's game-winning goal in a 1-0 win. Since then, Diskerud’s playing time for the U.S. has been sporadic. He was part of the United States U-23 team during its unsuccessful campaign to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. But he was not cap-tied until earlier this year, when he played for the United States in the Gold Cup. Four years ago, Diskerud was a bit of an oddity for the American side. Born and raised abroad, he developed his game within the Norwegian system and then pledged his allegiance to the United States. Back then, most of his teammates hailed from the U.S. Now when he looks around at his teammates, Diskerud notices that there are many players who followed a similar trajectory. His roommate in Vienna, Aron Johannsson, was raised in Iceland. Jermaine Jones, Terrence Boyd, and John Brooks were all born in Germany. "I think it's an American thing," Diskerud explained. "You feel really welcome when you come into the group. So in all the events I've been in with the U.S., it's been like that. If it's traveling to Arizona and playing with a soccer team there, then it's the same mentality there. I appreciate that and I love it." "It doesn't matter if you're 33 or 19, people are hanging out with each other and being nice with each other," he added. "I like that. They're looking out for each other. So it's really great to be part of this group." Following Tuesday’s match against Austria, Diskerud will return to Norway for Rosenborg’s final match of 2013—the Norwegian Cup final against Molde. "This is probably the biggest game," Diskerud said. "I've been part of it since I was a young kid, watching every single cup final since I was about eight. Sometimes I didn't even get into the stadium because it was full. So I stayed outside and just listened to the crowd. I've always wanted to be part of this and finally now I have the chance.” “It's a dream come true." Regardless of what happens against Austria or Molde, Diskerud has made a huge leap forward in the last 12 months. In the coming days he will have a chance to put an exclamation point on 2013. Would you like to see Mix Diskerud on the 2014 World Cup team? Do you think he will get the call? Tell us below. Brian Sciaretta is an ASN contributor. He is with the U.S. national team in Vienna, and will be filing stories for ASN today, tonight, and tomorrow.
November 19, 2013
November 19, 2013