BY ADAM SERRANO
Often when a new player joins the national team program, their performance is ripe with expectation. Each move is scrutinized and each pass dissected. For Mixx Diskerud, the story is no different.
Diskerud went 90 minutes in the United States 1-1 draw with Chile on Saturday night in just his second appearance for the national team. Starting in an attacking midfield role, the 20-year-old playmaker was given free reign to distribute the ball early until being moved out to the flanks for the later stages of the match. In contrast to his flashy performance against the South Africa, the promising midfielder displayed the work effort that has him on the fringes of the first team.
As one of the most promising young players in the United States system, Diskerud's performance was far more scrutinized than most, an added bonus for a player of his caliber.His second appearance in the books, Diskerud was pleased about how he felt that he had improved since making his first appearance for the U.S. team in late 2010.
"It took some time to get used to, but in the second half we were able to provide some combination play," said Diskerud. "We gave it our all and began pressuring them and that is when the match finally changed."
Often, for a player completely new to the national team set-up, the transition can be difficult dealing with unknown players and an unfamiliar coaching staff. But for Diskerud, the experience has been different. While only having two caps, Diskerud has established an immediate rapport with forwards Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo. All three players are part of a growing list of players that could have represented either the United States or another country. Since the three were called up, in the South Africa, they three highly rated prospects have become fast friends.
This early connection showed when Diskerud and Agudelo combined for the United States' lone goal in the South Africa match. Practically inseparable off the field, Diskerud roomed with Agudelo during the January camp, which brought them closer together. Like many 20-year olds, the trio bonded over almost daily XBox sessions, a practice that only brought them closer together, both on and off the field.
"We hang out a lot and I believe anything that you do off the field helps on the field because you know what your teammate is thinking," said Agudelo. "Of course we're going to hear about the [expectation], but we just stay focused on what is happening on the field."
After the successes of the trio in the last two friendlies, it is easy to forget that this connection nearly never occurred. Several years ago, it was unknown if Diskerud would ever appear for the United States. The 20-year-old Stabaek midfielder needed to decide between his native Norway and the United States, the nation of his mother. This indecision was made famous by his appearances for the U.S. U-20 team in 2008 and then appearing for Norway against the U.S. team just a month later.
In 2009, Diskerud finally chose the United States, but was not called up until the South Africa match in 2010. Diskerud referred to his decision as "first-come, first serve" and reaffirmed his love of his native Norway, proclaiming that he would play for both nations if it was acceptable. Since joining the United States however, Diskerud has enjoyed the tutelage of Bradley, who he feels has helped him become an even better player, both on and off the field.
"Bob is a great personality and as a coach I learn a lot from him, both tactically and technically," said Diskerud. " He stresses precision and always being on time. I've known a lot of coaches over the years and I would say that he is one of the best."
With two caps under his belt, Diskerud will attempt to crack the United States midfield, a position which is the deepest for the U.S. team. Behind players like Stuart Holden, Alejandro Bedoya among others, he faces an uphill climb to make an immediate impact on the squad. He returns to Stabaek, a team that has endured some struggles in recent years. Diskerud aspires to eventually play in some of the top leagues in Europe after spending his entire career with the Norwegian club.
The 20-year-old will have several opportunities to continue his national team career this year with friendlies, the Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying on the horizon. However, Diskerud admits that there is one competition that stands out above all the others for him.
"It was great to spend winter here rather than being in Norway where it is way colder right now, it was a great experience and I hope that I can get invited to more camps," said Diskerud. "My goal now is the Olympics, I really want to get there and the more experience that I get then the closer to the Olympics."