Mix Diskerud inherited the USA No. 10 jersey long worn by Landon Donovan, and got his stint with the fabled jersey off to a good start with a goal in a win vs. Azerbaijan.
The 23-year-old midfielder drew the short straw when it came time to wear the jersey number that had become synonymous with Landon Donovan for the better part of the past decade, and when he did, Diskerud knew he had to represent it well.
Diskerud did just that, coming off the bench and turning a Man of the Match-caliber performance in the U.S. team’s 2-0 victory against Azerbaijan.
The Norwegian-American midfielder set off a celebration at Candlestick Park as he helped ended 74 minutes of largely uneventful soccer with the opening goal of the night, pouncing on a saved Michael Bradley shot and blasting home the third goal of his young national team career.
“That’s your dream as a soccer player – the ball just bouncing in front of you on an open goal,” Diskerud said. “The goalie caught a little bit of it but it was hard enough to go in. Good feeling. I got tackled while I shot so the celebration wasn’t too much.”
After the match, Diskerud expressed his reverence for the USA No. 10.
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“It’s an honor for me,” Diskerud said. “If you look back at all the U.S. Men’s National Team players that were wearing No. 10, you have Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan. So for me, I’m sort of just borrowing it right now until I’m for sure going to play with Landon again and he has, of course, more caps than me so he’ll get it back then.
“But it’s fun to be a part of it,” Diskerud said. “No. 10 is just a number but of course I understand that a lot of people see it as more than that.”
Diskerud’s role on the team has been a steady one, as a midfield substitute capable of impacting the match with his attacking qualities. He showed that during World Cup qualifying last year, as well as the Gold Cup, including the Gold Cup final victory against Panama, when he came on as a first-half substitute and put in a Man of the Match-worthy display.
"He comes on and he has a soccer brain,” Michael Bradley said of Diskerud. “He's able to find space and find different spots. He can slip little balls, he can pop up in the right spot. He did that tonight, but tonight is not the first time he's done that."
Klinsmann sees him as a key figure in the next generation of American talents, the group of young players on the current team who could be the nucleus of a strong generation going forward.
“I think obviously he has great vision on the field, great passing technique,” Klinsmann said. “He’s calm on the ball. He has a lot of elements in his game that are strengths. He has a couple weaknesses too, but it’s nice to see him come in.”
Diskerud is one of several players on the U.S. team who will be carrying the burden of being seen as options chosen ahead of Donovan for the 23-man roster. He isn’t shying away from that, and is doing his best to not just show he belongs, but is eager to help lead the U.S. team to World Cup success.
Diskerud took his first step toward accomplishing that on Tuesday, with a goal that wasn’t all that memorable, but still helped the U.S. team get its World Cup send-off series off on the right foot.
“It’s just cool to contribute and to get a goal,” Diskerud said. “It’s always special. But for me it’s important to get that win so we can start that winning streak going into the World Cup.”