Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Mix Diskerud had a lot swirling through his head on the morning of his first Gold Cup match.
Hours before the U.S. Men’s National Team squared off with Belize in their Gold Cup opener on July 9th, Diskerud was informed by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann that he was in store for a start that day. While Diskerud thought about the challenges he was set to face that day, the 22-year-old midfielder also took time to reflect on the finality of a decision he took years to make, a decision that would become final as soon as he took the field that night in Portland.
Diskerud’s impressive, 90-minute performance that night in a 6-1 romp over Belize cap-tied him to the United States, effectively ending a tug-of-war of sorts between the U.S. and Norway that had been going on for nearly half a decade.
“I started adjusting to the fact and the feeling that I was going to be cap-tied,” said Diskerud of what he was feeling in the hours leading up to kickoff. “It’s fun. It’s been a close race kind of, it’s been back and forth for a long time, but I’m happy with the decision.”
Born in Norway to an American mother and Norwegian father, Diskerud had spent several of his younger years bouncing back and forth between U.S. and Norway’s youth teams. Diskerud could have easily been swayed by Norway’s repeated attempts to reel him into their program but he always kept an open mind as to which nation he would represent on the international stage.
Ultimately, Diskerud publicly devoted himself to the U.S. program and it did not take him long to make an impact. He delivered an impressive game-winning assist in his international debut in a friendly against South Africa back in November 2010 and also scored his first goal in a tie with Russia last November.
While those moments served as a good preview of what Diskerud could do in a U.S. jersey, it is his early summer performances which have really made American fans salivate at what may lie ahead. Diskerud has brought a calming presence to the U.S. midfield when he has played and has looked anything but a young player still adapting to the international game.
Diskerud is not exactly a stranger to playing internationally or spending several weeks with his American teammates, having taken part in January camps with the U.S. before. But what is different about this camp for him is that it is the first one in which there is real pressure to perform, is exposing him to the heavy traveling load that comes with being a U.S. international, and is finally providing him a golden chance to showcase the qualities he can bring.
“I don’t feel I’ve shown in the past what I’m capable of,” said Diskerud of his first four caps with the U.S. team. “I feel like I’ve been game-changing kind of. Last five minutes, I’ve been subbed in, I’ve scored goals and assists, but really what I’m good at is building up the game and creating chances for teammates and getting a flow.
“I feel like the three games I’ve been part of now, it’s showing.”
That has not been lost on Diskerud’s head coach. Klinsmann has given Diskerud healthy cameos in all three matches this month, something which would have been hard to predict in January when the German-born U.S. coach surprisingly left Diskerud off the game-day roster for a B-team friendly against Canada.
Diskerud’s teammates have also taken notice of his skill in this camp, especially the calmness, creativity and forward-thinking that at times has been missing from the U.S. midfield.
“He’s a good player on the ball. Technically, very sound,” said midfielder Stuart Holden. “He reminds me of me when I was younger and he always wants to get on the ball and he’s got that youthful exuberance. After training, he’s hitting 30 shots and I think if I did that now my quad would probably end up in the goal before the ball. It’s good to see.
“He’s a young player, very talented, and I think if he’s brought along the right way he could be a very big player for this national team in the future.”
For Diskerud, the Gold Cup is giving him ample opportunity to make a statement to Klinsmann about whether he should be with the Americans’ A-team. Diskerud, however, is not focused on that, nor is he looking ahead to Brazil 2014.
Not yet, anyway.
“Everybody wants to be a part of that, but for me, it’s just (about focusing on) right here, right now,” said Diskerud. “I’m having fun and I’m just going to do what I can and show what I can and then I’ll see what happens.
“It’s just fun. You get to meet a group of guys who are helpful and we do a lot of stuff off the field as well. It’s different ages, but you can’t really see that when you’re playing and when you’re off the pitch. It’s nice to be a part of it.”