SND Exclusive: Mix Diskerud Chats Club, Country and FamilyAn exclusive look at the motivation, inspiration and xesturgy of Mikkel M.P. Diskerud
by Austin Farrow | Monday, March 24, 2014
Mix, born Mikkel Morgenstar Palssonn Diskerud, but just referred to as Mix, is a 23-year-old Norwegian-American playing for Rosenborg in Norway’s top division. Born in Oslo, Norway, Mix had the option to represent the United States or Norway at the national team senior level, but chose the United States.
Now, Mix has the opportunity to represent the United States in this summer’s World Cup after playing a part in both World Cup Qualifying and the Gold Cup in 2013.
In his time with Rosenborg last season, Mix appeared for the club 26 out of a possible 30 times in the Tippeligaen, and in the last 5 of 7 rounds of the Norwegian National Championship. The National Championship is determined by “single draw Cup play” where teams from nearly all divisions are allowed to compete. It is the Norwegian equivalent to the English FA Cup. In the National Cup, Rosenborg made it all the way to the final where Mix scored, before his team conceded 2 goals in the final 8 minutes. Rosenborg subsequently lost the championship 4-2 to Molde.
“The Cup was, for me, the hardest thing to give up,” he said in an interview with Soccer Newsday. “I guess it always will be. I think that very competition itself, because of the format, is what motivates me the most to stay and fight for it and not go abroad before I have been a part of bringing the Cup home to the town and team supporters which I know I am playing for.”
He added, “There is virtually no club discrimination. Last year they let 272 clubs be a part of that wonderful celebration of chance and luck of the draw. … (These clubs) stand a chance to claim a scalp and a sense of pride that can be a life-long memory for their whole community. As club play is concerned, the Norwegian Cup is special. To me it is so special that I believe only some British traditions and emotions do surpass it.”
Mix continued to explain the National Championship with great pride. “Who will each meet next? Home field advantage or not? Local papers are filled with it. Professionals meet amateurs, and we all stand a freak chance to play on muddy clay or fields that are better at producing potatoes than goals.”
“Every now and then you meet some guys that for sure could have been better than any of us, if they either had a little better coaching or teammates growing up, or if they hadn’t prioritized job or school as much as they did. I tell you, a lot of those guys may shine for 60 minutes or more when they finally get their big chance and concentrate their ambition to one game only, against their big rival or an arrogant Tippeligaen club,” Mix said about the local skill in Norway.
Mix states that in Norway, “the nerve stays tense all through our sport from March through November. One bad game, one mistake and you are out.”
Mix was also a vital part of a side that nearly won the 2013 Tippeligaen title. However, like the National Championship, Rosenborg unfortunately couldn’t bring home silverware on the final day. It wasn’t in Rosenborg’s hands as much on the last day of league play. Rosenborg needed a win against Lillestrom but also needed Stromsgodset to lose or tie their match on the day. Rosenborg defeated Lillestrom 3-0 but Stromsgodset defeated Haugesund 4-0. Hence, Rosenborg lost out on the title by one point and finished in second place.
“Of course, to come up short in Tippeligaen hurts economically as the status of the players and their clubs are affected,” he said. “However, every time you step onto a cup game, going against a team that has all logical odds against them, that is when you really risk to loose so much of your pride.”
There are obviously aspects that Mix greatly enjoys about the Tippeligaen. Mix listed the likes of his former club, Stabæk, along with Valerenga, Aalesund, Fredrikstad and who else but Stromsgodset in this respect. Rosenborg did not win the league in 2013 but at least a club that Mix respects greatly did. There is always next year however. Mix and Rosenborg have spent time in Marbella, Spain preparing for the upcoming Tippeligaen season. Rosenborg’s season will kick off on the 29th of this month against Viking.
He admits he gets up for games against Lillestrom and Molde in particular. Molde, where fellow Americans Josh Gatt and Ethan Horvath play, is especially exciting “because of the historic rivalry between these 2 clubs (Rosenborg and Molde).” Mix also cites the passion of Lillestrom supporters as an enjoyable facet of playing against Lillestrom, especially when traveling away to Lillestrom.
Norwegian football isn’t the only thing Mix must motivate himself for. On July 9, 2013, Mikkel Diskerud committed himself to the USMNT by starting against Belize in the opening match of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. This affectively cap-tied Mikkel to the United States.
Since then, he has been a reoccurring player in Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States team. In fact, Mix has been called in to every national team camp since the Gold Cup. That is 6-straight camps, including the Ukraine friendly, which he was initially called in to but had to withdraw from at the wishes of his club, Rosenborg. Out of those 6 camps, Diskerud started 4 games, including 2 World Cup Qualifiers against Jamaica and Panama.
“I celebrate like it is Christmas every time I get called up for a (national team) game or camp,” he said. It is the biggest honor there is.”
Mix stays humble through his experiences with the national team, however.
“Even though many of us seldom know if getting called means we are each considered to be of the best players in the nation, it is yet so sweet,” he said. “Because at least you know you are among those players who the existing head coach believes he can create a winning team out of, when going against that next specific opponent.”
Mix greatly appreciates and enjoys being called to the national team.
“They tell you first that you are in contention and then weeks can go by before you get the final call, just days before camp actually,” he said. “I wish that waiting period was shorter. Like my mom would never put the wrapped Christmas gifts under the tree in mid-November. That would have been torture,” Mix joked.
Continuing with his cunning sense of humor, Mix states, “I guess I have the biggest problem with it because I still haven't fully grown up.”
The “waiting period” on one specific call-up may cause Mix to go full Bill Murray. With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil beginning this June, Diskerud will have to work hard to ensure that he will indeed be a part of Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad.
“That could be very close to heaven in my religion. I haven't made it there yet. My Mom will pray that I do.”
Mix certainly looks forward to the possibility of playing in this summer’s World Cup and will prepare himself to do so. He’s used playing the USMNT as motivation for the future.
“It has made me who I want to be.”
Mix is a person and player that puts value into the many facets that have put him to where he is today. His nickname, Mix, is a name his mother claimed to have given him when he was little because of how much energy he always had, which she compared to a Mixmaster kitchen mixer. His father claims his coined name was shortened from Mixmaster to Mix because it fit with his mixed bloodlines and race. He could play for the United States because his mother is from Arizona.
“When I was little I dreamt of being an Olympian. I dreamt of scoring a goal in the World Cup, preferably on a decisive penalty kick,” Mix recalled from his childhood. “Those were fantastic dreams to have. Reality can never come close to everything that was built into those sweet thoughts. What further made those daydreams so special is that I knew they always were shared by so many other kids also being seduced by the beautiful game. That focus made life and puberty easy.”
With those dreams in mind, Mix has become a creative midfielder with the range to fulfill a variety of tactical objectives on the field. On national team duty, Mix has filled in for Clint Dempsey in a central attacking midfield role and at other times he has filled in for Michael Bradley in a deeper-lying central role. He has the ability to break up opposition play but thrives when attacking and when on the ball through his vision, close ball control and technique. Similar to the national team, he has played as a deep-lying, attacking and 2-way central midfielder with Rosenborg.
Mix knows his strengths and plays to his strengths but can adapt. Mix has learned from the best in this aspect. He lists the likes of Erik Mykland, also known as “The Mosquito”, and Ryan Giggs as inspirations.
“‘The Mosquito’ knew, like no other, how to read games, and he had a gifted technique. I got to tackle him once. I got one game against him before he retired. Second biggest day of my life, that day,” Mix said. Erik Mykland was a popular figure in Norway for nearly 20 years because of his footballing artistry.
When speaking of players throughout time, Mix said he has seen clips of Roberto Rivelino and “Socrates” and would have liked be able to have experienced live games with these two players in particular. He stated that he would have loved to play on the same field with these two or even within the same time frame. Whether it be in the 1960’s and 70’s with Rivelino or the 1970’s and 80’s with “Socrates”, it is oh-so-unfortunate for Mix that time machines have not yet been created.
“Off the field I have admired players that can still influence my future, so I'll keep those greats to myself for a while longer.”
Xesturgy is the process of polishing.
The past year with the national team was a big part of Mix’s development, particularly the Gold Cup and making the decision of letting Klinsmann cap-tie him for the United States.
“I didn't know what the Gold Cup was. I didn't expect much. I came open and naive,” recalled Mix. “I got to see the American melting pot that I always had heard so much about, from the inside. I was in the middle of it for several venues and several games,” said Mix as he talked about his Gold Cup experience. Through the Gold Cup, Mix grew an even greater appreciation for playing for the United States.
“I am very thankful that the current rule, for Americans born in Europe, is that they can play for the U.S., but not be elected US presidents, and that it is not the other way around,” Mix points out. “I would (always) have traded a right to run for the presidency with a right to make a run for the world cup in a U.S. jersey, any day of the year,” he says with a laugh.
He is grateful for a great many things. With continued belief and motivation maybe he’ll find himself with a Tippeligaen title or a Norwegian National Championship soon or perhaps he’ll find himself on the plane to Brazil. Like Erik Mykland or Ryan Giggs, he would then probably find himself as an even greater inspiration to both young Norwegian and American players alike.
“But I think I will be going, (because) I can’t believe that the conviction I have had for so long regarding notching a specific clean assist and scoring a goal would end up being nothing but an illusion,” Mix ultimately states about his World Cup chances.
At the age of 23, Mikkel Diskerud is still a young player with many opportunities and more development ahead of him. Whether he goes to Brazil this summer or not, Mix will continue to polish himself to be the best that he can be.
“If I become one of those who steps off a plane close to a rain forest in June,” he said, “it is going to be hard to keep all emotions inside.”