SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The disappointment of not playing in the Olympic soccer tournament two years ago stuck with Mix Diskerud.
That had been a lifelong goal, and he was part of that U.S. team that lost its chance for a spot in the London Games with a late-game collapse during qualifying.
Diskerud is getting a shot at redemption of sorts on the international soccer stage, headed to the World Cup in Brazil next month. He showed in a 2-0 exhibition victory Tuesday night against Azerbaijan the impact he can make for coach Jurgen Klinsmann off the bench, scoring the first U.S. goal off a rebound in the 75th minute just four minutes after subbing into the game.
And he did it wearing Landon Donovan’s old No. 10 jersey.
“You grow a lot from certain experiences, and definitely one like that, because that was a goal in my life to reach the Olympics,” Diskerud said. “Another goal was to reach the World Cup, so now I’m part of that.”
Mikkel Diskerud’s parents met at Arizona State — his father is from Norway and his mother from Arizona. He was born in Oslo and was given his nickname by his mother. His full name is Mikkel Morgenstar Palssonn Diskerud.
“When I was a little kid, I always ran around the house, and my mom said I was like a mixer,” Diskerud said ahead of his U.S. national team debut in an exhibition at South Africa four years ago. “When I was a kid, I was on a team called Frigg and there were two guys named Mikkel, so one had to get a nickname. I got Mix, and it stuck.”
He had dual citizenship, enabling him to play on youth national teams from both Norway and the U.S. His goal Tuesday night sparked the Americans after a listless half-and-a-half.
Following Brad Davis’ free kick, Diskerud headed the ball down to Michael Bradley, whose shot was cleared off the goal line by Elvin Yunuszade. Diskerud then banged the ball in with a right-footed shot from 6 yards.
It was the third goal in 18 appearances with the national team for Diskerud, who plays for Norway’s Rosenberg. While Klinsmann insists he’s not superstitious about No. 10, Diskerud earned the honor for how far he has come since the Olympic near miss.
“Mix is coming from a group of guys that we had real trouble with getting to the next level, and I mean our Olympic team that was supposed to go to London,” Klinsmann said. “There were a few guys, very special players coming with that team, and for whatever reason it just didn’t work out the way it should have worked out. We lost a few ones on that path that should actually be part of this group now, this inner-circle group. … All these very, very talented kids, they fell in a hole, in a deep one.”
In Olympic qualifying, limited to players under 23, the Americans led 3-2 and were seconds from advancing to the semifinals when they surrendered the tying goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time. The 3-3 draw against El Salvador kept the U.S. from the semifinals, only the second time since 1976 the U.S. failed to qualify.
“Because of what happened there, we desperately now from the senior level look at that generation and we want them to come through and we want them to grow into the senior team and they struggled with that because of that huge disappointment,” Klinsmann said. “Now Mix, he kind of shook it off and continued his path in Scandinavia and came very strongly in the Gold Cup last summer. … He’s already a little bit ahead of the curve. He obviously has a great vision on the field, a great passing technique, he’s calm on the ball. He has a lot of elements in his game. It’s nice to see him come in and make an impact.”
Diskerud started all three games and had two assists against Cuba in the Olympic qualifying opener. He is the only player on the World Cup roster who appeared in Olympic qualifying. Two other teammates, Terrence Boyd and Joe Corona, were among the seven players cut last week by Klinsmann.
“Of course you go through ups and downs,” Diskerud said. “Right now is definitely an up.”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard was thrilled to see someone like Diskerud come through in the first of three World Cup tuneups.
“He’s worked hard,” Howard said. “He’s got his opportunity to show what he can do and hopefully he can continue to do more of that the next couple games.”
The Americans face Turkey at Harrison, New Jersey, on Sunday followed by a game with Nigeria six days later in Jacksonville, Florida. The Americans end their two-week stay at Stanford University on Thursday and head east.
“It’s started now, this whole thing,” Klinsmann said.
NOTES: Klinsmann expects F Clint Dempsey to play Sunday; the U.S. captain was a late scratch against Azerbaijan because of a sore groun. “It should be no problem at all for Turkey,” Klinsmann said. … Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts was ready to move forward to his scouting job as a special adviser for Klinsmann. He will see the U.S. opponents in Group G: Ghana, Portugal and Germany. He liked what the Americans did Tuesday, saying, “They played very powerful.”
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
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