Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos
By CAITLIN MURRAY
STANFORD, Calif. — It is that name. Mix. It can be a noun or it can be a verb, but however it is used, it is clear that something is coming together.
For a guy that considers himself equally American and Norwegian – “a mix,” he says – and is keen to play either holding mid or attacker, it might be fate that gave Mix Diskerud his name. Or maybe it was just fate that it stuck.
“When I was younger, I ran around the house all the time, I’m told. And my mom called me Mixmaster,” he told reporters Friday before training at Stanford University.
But as a youngster in Norway with another teammate who shared his given name of Mikkel, it was decided someone had to change.
“I was the youngest one, so Mix came,” Diskerud said. “From there on, everybody calls me Mix. My teachers, my grandparents, everybody.”
IN THE WORLD CUP MIX
And soon, if he makes Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23-man World Cup squad, many more people will know that name.
With fewer caps than many of the guys he is competing against, Diskerud sits on the precipice of the seven cuts Klinsmann will make before the U.S. Men’s National Team leaves for Brazil.
“Now I’m closer than ever,” he said. “From the start, when you’re a little kid running around with the ball, can barely walk, and now you’ve come this far.”
It was only last summer that Diskerud cap-tied himself to the USMNT, and at the same time showed he could be a valuable bench option with his versatility in the midfield and his ability to make an immediate impact.
“That tournament, I had so much fun,” Diskerud said. “The Gold Cup helped me get into the mix.”
But now that he’s made the preliminary roster, Diskerud has work to do before Klinsmann must name his final squad by June 2. Lately he hasn’t made the starting XI with his club Rosenborg BK and will have to shake off the rust quickly in Stanford.
When asked about where he fits in with the USMNT, he’s leaving his role up to whatever Klinsmann needs at the time, getting only as specific as “anywhere in the middle.”
“I like setting my teammates up for chances and opportunities, but I can also go more offensively and be in the attack,” Diskerud said. “As long as I get the ball, I am happy.”
AN AMERICAN MENTALITY
Diskerud, a native of Oslo, was playing for Norway’s youth national team when U.S. U-20 coach Thomas Rongen spotted him.
“He asked if I had an American passport when I was going to take a corner kick, actually,” Diskerud said. “And I said yes.”
That was in 2008. By 2013, he would join the U.S. permanently on a run to the Gold Cup title.
When asked if he regrets his decision to play for the U.S. instead of Norway, Diskerud won’t even let the reporter finish the question.
“No. Not at all,” he said. “I’ve had so much fun and I feel part of this group now and it’s the best feeling ever.”
There are some quirks about it, though. If you ask Diskerud about his ultimate World Cup memory growing up, he talks about watching the 1998 World Cup. Norway shocked the world and defeated Brazil in group play to advance to the second round.
Many of his friends play for the Norwegian national team. But he gives them a hard time.
“I always joke with them because we’re ahead of them in the FIFA ranking,” Diskerud said, referring to the U.S. ranking at 14 while Norway sits at 55 worldwide.
The Gold Cup that was so pivotal for Diskerud’s standing with the USMNT showed him what the American mentality is capable of. The team believed they would be the best – and they were, winning the tournament for the first time since 2007.
“Every time we played a game, we were certain. Not cocky, but we knew we were going win and we knew we had good players,” Diskerud said. “That’s a great mentality. That’s the American mentality.”
Although Diskerud, 23, plays in Norway’s top-tier Tippeligaen, he spends much of his downtime stateside. He has family in Phoenix and has taken a liking to California. He makes sure to show his friends on the Norwegian national team how much he likes it.
“I bring as many Norwegian guys as possible to kind of show the states because I’m proud, of course, and then we go on a huge road trip,” he said. “We fill up about two cars.”
If Diskerud makes it to the World Cup, he’ll be representing a certain kind of American that the USMNT seems to have a lot of – players who were born or lived their lives mostly in other countries.
But when asked by a reporter if he has reached out to new German-American recruit Julian Green because he may understand “what [Green] is going through,” Diskerud seemed surprised at the characterization.
“Going through? Isn’t it only positive?” he asked.
Diskerud may end up wearing the U.S. badge on his chest in Brazil on the world’s biggest stage, but he is very clear about who he is.
As he put it: “I feel half American, half Norwegian – a mix.”