BRENT LATHAM - Thursday, July 16, 2009
Each time the US national team takes the field at a FIFA U-20 World Cup, a handful of young prospects who enter the tournament in relative anonymity end up branded a large hope for the future of American soccer.
Whether or not a few tournament games is a measuring stick for potential, one player who looks poised to break onto the American scene this summer in Egypt is midfielder Mikkel "Mix" Diskerud, who plies his professional trade for Stabaek of the Norwegian top flight.
After rejoining Thomas Rongen's U-20 side for a friendly match in Egypt late last month, the dual national Norwegian-American is now looking forward to representing the States on an international level for a long time to come.
"To represent a nation that on average will have representatives of five states competing for one position in the starting line-up is spine-shivering to me," said Diskerud.
Diskerud joined Rongen's team on a short break between cub matches, flying into Cairo for the first of a pair of scrimmages with the team that will host the U-20 World Cup beginning in September.
"Of course, you can't compare it to what the adults did a continent south of us," the midfielder said of the concurrent performance of the US full national team in the Confederations Cup in South Africa. "But we also could walk off the field with our heads held high. It was fun, and it was a fair and clean match."
The Stabaek man scored the game winner in that first match, putting in the only goal of a 1-0 victory. That tally will be added to a handful the eighteen-year-old has already scored in the Norweigian top flight.
Diskerud says the tournament in Egypt is likely to come off well.
"I think the Egyptians proved they will be perfect hosts for a good and friendly U-20 World Cup," he says, advising fans to plan a trip. "For any soccer-fan that would like to tag along with their team for a good view of interesting and different talent"
"It will probably be a good time to visit much of our civilization's cradle."
Diskerud played in a handful of matches with the US team early last year, before an odd set of circumstances found him temporarily exiled from the squad. When he didn't hear back from the US after a tournament in Portugal, he then suited up for Norway on several occasions, before hooking back up with the US early this year.
The Arizona native says he would have liked to rejoin the team sooner, but his club commitments have kept him in Norway.
"I'm coming in kind of late, because I haven't been allowed by my employer to join the squad until now. I had only spent time with a few of the guys before - last year in Portugal. But the whole team had a great spirit, and we actually had fun on and off the field. I think partly due to a very competent and professional staff. They made me feel at ease."
With the conflict of nationalities behind him, at least on the soccer pitch, Diskerud has declared his future sporting allegiance to the USA.
"I am a Norwegian-American," he explains. "I would love to play for both countries, but I can't. I have have said first come - first served, in order to let fate take control, I guess. My agent has informed my club and the Norwegian Federation of my decision, and I only hope that I can be of use to Rongen and the US team."
"I am just as eager to get into the Olympics with the US team as to get to Egypt in September. It is in hands of the US coaches, and my ability to perform consistently and prove worthy."
As a full fledged American soccer player, Diskerud says he took great pride in watching the Americans triumph in South Africa, despite missing most of the final as he flew back to Norway from Cairo.
"During the final, I was on a plane back from Egypt. But I got to see the last 20 minutes upon arrival in Oslo. It was not the part that should be remembered by itself. I have of course later seen the whole game in replay. It made me proud, it should make every American proud."
Diskerud's analysis of the significance of the Confederations Cup final reveals an understanding of international soccer beyond his years.
"This is the world's greatest game, and we contributed splendor to a whole world watching. When soccer at that level is being played, it is not just the supporters of the two competing teams that is watching. A large portion of the world actually holds its breath. The team members are great ambassadors for soccer, great ambassadors for the USA. They played an open, good and world class game."
Diskerud will now hope to be included in Thomas Rongen's final roster for the U-20 World Cup in Egypt. The Americans take on Germany, Cameroon, and South Korea in group play beginning in late September.