The first thing you notice is the name. Mikkel Morgenstar Paalsonn Diskerud.
“That’s hard to say,” Diskerud acknowledges.
So you can call him Mix.
How he’d really like to be known, though, is as a member of the U.S. World Cup team. He has just two more weeks to make a case that he deserves that title.
“Since I was a little kid. Since I was about 6 years old, all I wanted was the World Cup,” says Diskerud, a dual passport holder who was born in Norway to an American mother and Norwegian father. “But now I’m closer than ever.”
Diskerud, one of 10 midfield candidates in the pre-World Cup camp at Stanford University, played 13 games for the U.S. last year, scoring twice. Just as important is the fact the U.S. lost just one of those 13 games.
The versatile 23-year-old contributed to that success in a number of ways, sometimes playing a more defensive posture and other times joining the attack.
“Whatever the coach wants me to be,” he says Friday when asked his favorite position. “I feel like I can play a lot of different roles. I like setting my teammates up for chances and opportunities. But I can also, of course, go more offensively. As long as I get the ball.”
Over the past year his work rate and range have improved markedly and that, along with his versatility, could make him a valuable option off the bench. Those traits undoubtedly played in a role in Coach Juergen Klinsmann’s decision to use Diskerud in all six matches of last July’s Gold Cup, which the U.S. won for the first time since 2007.
Diskerud, who had started just once previously for the national team, says that performance transformed him from an afterthought to a serious contender for the World Cup team.
“If you asked me a year ago, before the Gold Cup, I would say my chances were pretty slim. But from there on … it’s been a very, very positive experience. And hopefully for the U.S. team as well," he said.
“I feel like I’ve contributed and I increased my chances. And here I am.”
As a junior Diskerud played for Norway’s under-18 and under-19 teams, then for the American under-20 and under-23 squads. At one point in 2008 he debuted for the U.S. U-20 team against Northern Ireland by recording three assists then later played for Norway's U-18 against the U.S.
He says now that his preference was always to play for the U.S. as a senior. But a few years back he promised to go with the first person who asked. That proved to be Thomas Rongen, a coach with the U.S. U-20 team -- although his timing was a little strange, with Rongen finding a seat near the corner flag just as Diskerud approached to take a corner kick.
“He asked if I had an American passport,” said Diskerud, who plays club soccer for Rosenborg, Norway’s most successful team with 22 titles. “That’s a long story. I just said, ‘first come, first served. I’m half American, half Norwegian.
Ah yes. The name. Turns out there’s some argument about exactly how he got that as well.
His mother’s story -- which his father disputes -- is that Mix was so hyperactive as a toddler that she called him Mixmaster because, like a kitchen mixer, he was always in motion. The name came in handy a few years later, though, when Diskerud joined a youth soccer team that already had a player name Mikkel.
“We had to have a different name for one of the guys. And I was the youngest one so Mix came,” he said. “From there on, everyone calls me Mix. My teachers called me Mix. My grandparents. Everybody.”
Now Diskerud is hoping he can get Klinsmann to say his name on June 2 when the coach announces the final World Cup roster.