Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
CHICAGO — As Mix Diskerud settled in on the bench for Sunday’s Gold Cup Final, he wasn’t dwelling on the fact he wasn’t starting. He was ready to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team win a trophy.
Diskerud’s attention changed quickly as he saw Stuart Holden grimacing in pain. He didn’t have much time to think. Diskerud knew he would have to jump into the middle of an intense match with no warm-up and try to make his mark in his first international final.
Not only did Diskerud hold his own, he shined, earning SBI USMNT Man of the Match honors with a well-rounded and composed performance that helped the Americans win their fifth Gold Cup title.
“I was worried about Stu. That was my first thought,” Diskerud said of the sequence that led to his 23rd-minute entrance into Sunday’s final. “ And then I’ve got 30 seconds to warm up. That’s not enough, but it worked out.
“It took me a couple of minutes to get into the game, and get the pace of the game,” Diskerud said. “I feel like when I came out in the second half I was really more calm and I got to control the game and get the flow.”
Diskerud impressed with his two-way play, making challenges defensively and delivering crisp passes with equal ease.
“It’s difficult in a game like this, where you get comfortable on the bench and you’re thinking you’re going to watch the game, and then 10 minutes later you’re warming up,” Donovan said. “I give (Diskerud) a lot of credit.”
“I said it in the team meeting this morning to Jose (Torres) and to Mix that it hurts me as a coach to leave you on the bench because you deserve it like everybody else to be in the starting 11,” Klinsmann said. “But at the end of the day you can only choose 11, and they were okay with it.
“When (Holden’s injury) happened, I was confident that if I put Mix in, that he will play that role like he was on the field from the beginning,” Klinsmann said. “Mix is challenging his next level, and the way he was from the beginning of camp was impressive.”
“As a player you want to start every single game, but the coach wants to do what’s best for the team and I respect that,” Diskerud said of not starting the final. “I’ve got no problem with that. I’m competing with Stu Holden, who’s done very well in his career, so I wasn’t too disappointed about that.”
Diskerud acknowledged how tough it was to settle into the match, though he didn’t take long to find the game.
“The first couple of minutes you’re exhausted, you go around and can’t catch your breath,” Diskerud recalled. “But after a couple of minutes you get used to the tempo of the game.”
The result was a winner’s medal in Diskerud’s first international tournament with the U.S., a tournament that cap-tied him to the United States. That decision to play for the U.S. rather than his native Norway was not an easy one, but he certainly wasn’t regretting it after Sunday.
“It was a big decision for me,” Diskerud said of playing for the U.S. over Norway. “I wish I could play for both nations, but that’s not possible, so this is what happened and I’m so happy.”
Diskerud couldn’t contain his smile after Sunday’s final. Not only because of the championship, but because of what he, and most observers, considered a strong tournament.
“I feel like I got to show what I’m capable of and I hope the coach and the U.S. Soccer fans liked that,” Diskerud said. “I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of my team, and hopefully I’ll get the chance again to prove myself going forward.”