BRIAN SCIARETTA - Saturday, October 11, 2014
After an impressive outing last month in a win over the Czech Republic, Mix Diskeurd followed it up with a second straight quality performance in Friday's 1-1 draw against Ecuador.
The United States dominated the first half and it was Diskerud who gave the Americans team a lead in the 5th minute when he slammed home a shot from the center of the box. Similar to the game against the Czech Republic, it only wasn't until the mass substitutions in the second half when the U.S. team lost control of the game.
Despite Ecuador's late equalizer, Diskerud earned strong praise from Jurgen Klinsmann for his performance where his smooth passing was a key element of a strong first half by the U.S. team and his defensive effort helped keep Ecuador off the scoreboard until the 88th minute.
"Today, we created so many chances and we could have scored a lot more goals," Diskerud said. "They had two good results before this and we knew they were going to be good. They had the ball in the end a bit more than us but that usually happens when it is 1-0 for one team. We conceded a goal, we shouldn't have but it happened."
Klinsmann said that after the game that Diskerud is a work in progress albeit one with a tremendous upside. Still, he stressed that the Norwegian-born Diskerud must add different elements to his game in order to fit into the U.S. team which Klinsmann has planned.
The German coach stressed Diskerud must add aggressiveness and physicality to his play as the cycle progresses.
"Mix is growing," Klinsmann said. "I think the message to him after the World Cup was: if you want to break into this team as a starter one day, you've got to step it up. You have to become more aggressive. You have to challenge more in 'one against one' situations. You have to become more physical. Can he play? Absolutely. Does he have tremendous vision? Yes. But he needs these other elements on the international stage to break through and I think he is working hard on this."
Klinsmann was not a lone. Following the game, several players were quick to point out that Diskerud was one of the standouts of the night.
"Mix Diskerud was really aggressive in there and I like seeing Mix like that," Omar Gonzalez said. "I was really happy with him tonight."
Diskerud has shined in the first two games after the Word Cup but things will only get more difficult as regular central midfielders such as Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Kyle Beckerman are yet to join the team. In addition there is a growing contingent of players rising in the youth system or from MLS who are raising their game. Luis Gil and Emerson Hyndman have been part of the team during recent camps while Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe are having impressive seasons in MLS.
The test for Klinsmann will be for Mix to show his consistency and that he can routinely deliver. With two straight strong performances, he is on his way.
"The challenge for all these players you see on the younger side is consistency," Kinsmann explained. "That for us is the biggest challenge. Not showing it one game, show it in the next game too and next month as well and show it with your club team - to build this consistency over an entire season over 11 months is their biggest challenge. We always see the talent that players have but can they prove it on a consistent basis. We'll get another kind of answer to many of those questions next Tuesday against Honduras. It's about: 'OK, am I able to go every four or five days at the same pace, same rhythm, same aggressiveness. He's working on it. I was pleased obviously with his performance."
Following the game Diskerud admitted that he was pleased with his performance and that it showed continued progress in central midfield. Through the hour mark, Diskerud said that the American midfielders implemented their game-plan. The next step will be to complete the performance for an entire 90 game.
"At least for the first 60-65 minutes I felt like the team was doing well," Diskerud said. "I was a part of that. We did manage to pressure as we wanted to. Overall we had a nice performance. It is something to move forward with."
While Diskerud was the perhaps the best player on the field on Friday night, the game belonged to Landon Donovan who was making his final performance for the U.S. team after a long and storied career. Diskerud wanted to be a part of this evening and despite growing up in Norway, his admiration for Donovan goes back to youth.
"Everybody in Norway knows who Landon Donovan is," Diskerud said. "I grew up knowing who he was. Obviously when I became a part of the national team, I got to know him even more. Great, great guy overall."