U.S. national team news and notes from World Cup training camp at Stanford

The U.S. squad gathers around Juergen Klinsmann at Stanford's soccer stadium. (By Steven Goff -- The Washington Post)
The U.S. squad gathers around Juergen Klinsmann at Stanford’s soccer stadium. (By Steven Goff — The Washington Post)

The Americans were back at work this afternoon after a pair of 60-minute, split-squad scrimmages against Stanford on Saturday in the university’s football stadium. The activities were closed to media and no specific details were made available.

Brad GuzanTim Howard and Geoff Cameron arrived today after being allowed to skip the first several days of workouts.

Aron Johannsson and Jermaine Jones are the last en route to California.

Jones concluded his Besiktas loan Saturday with a 90-minute effort during a 1-1 draw with Genclerbirligi. Besiktas finished third in Turkey’s Super Lig and secured Champions League qualifying. His contract with Schalke has expired, so unless Besiktas exercises an option to purchase his contract, he will be available on a free transfer this summer.

Johannsson played 90 Sunday in AZ Alkmaar’s 3-0 loss at Groningen in the second leg of their Eredivisie playoff for a Europa League berth. The sides settled for a 0-0 draw in the first leg Thursday. Johannsson finished the season with 26 goals in 55 appearances across all competitions.

Omar Gonzalez, limited to fitness and ball work on the side for several days because of a knee injury, participated in full training for the first time.

Many of the U.S. players from MLS clubs watched league matches online last night. German-based Fabian Johnson watched the Bundesliga playoff between Hamburg and Greuther Fuerth.

German-American defender Timothy Chandler, one of several candidates to start at right back, wins the contest for best sense of humor.

Asked if he hears from fans in Germany about possibly playing against the Germans in the World Cup, he said: “For sure, they make jokes. Some would say, ‘Don’t win against them.’ Some would say, ‘Kick their ass.’”

On the ease of having other German Americans on the squad, he said: “We understand everything — English, German, Mexican, Chinese, we don’t care.”

In The Post’s weekly soccer package for Monday’s print edition, I filed a short profile of Mix Diskerud. While I would love for you to run out and purchase the paper in the morning, it’s also available for reading here as well. [See below.] I also have a separate feature on Maryland native Kyle Beckerman, now available online.

This is my final day at Stanford. Heading home for other assignments. I will rejoin the U.S. squad in New York at the end of the month.

Road trip cuisine: Joanie’s Cafe and the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market.

********************

Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg BK)
Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg BK)

Mikkel Diskerud is known as Mix because …

1. He scampered around the house at such pace, he reminded his mother Susan of a kitchen appliance, the Mixmaster.
2. When he was 5, there was another player on his team with the same first name, so as the younger one, he inherited a contracted version.
3. It’s easier to remember than his full name, Mikkel Morgenstar Paalsonn Diskerud.
4. With mixed heritage, the moniker fits.

By any name, Diskerud is a possession-oriented midfielder who grew up in Oslo with an American mother and Norwegian father and represented both the United States and Norway on the youth level before committing to the U.S. operation.

He is among 10 players at World Cup training camp with dual nationality, joining six German Americans, a Mexican American (Joe Corona), an Irish American (Michael Parkhurst) and an Icelandic American (Aron Johannsson). Juergen Klinsmann, the U.S. squad’s German coach, will trim the roster to 23 from 30 before FIFA’s June 2 deadline. With his skill set and versatility as an attacker or provider, Diskerud has a good chance of making the cut.

“Since I was about 6 years old, I always wanted to get to the World Cup,” he said. “Now I am closer than ever.”

Diskerud, 23, has spent most of his pro career in Norway, first with Stabaek and now Rosenborg, the country’s most decorated club. On both his Rosenborg online profile and the back of his jersey, he is just “Mix.” No last name required.

“Everybody calls me Mix. My teachers. My grandparents. Everybody,” he said.

The U.S. Soccer Federation discovered him in 2008 when Stabaek’s junior team was on a Mexican tour. Diskerud was about to take a corner kick during a scrimmage against the U.S. under-20 squad when American coach Thomas Rongen asked if the rumors of his U.S. citizenship were true.

What was Rongen doing near the corner? “Just a different prospective,” he said, “and trying to get close to Mix.”

Rongen brought him to the next U-20 gathering, but the Norwegians began pressing for his services as well. He suited up for their U-19s before the USSF wooed him again. He was part of the unsuccessful U.S. Olympic qualifying campaign two years ago and showed well during last summer’s Gold Cup and subsequent call-ups.

“If you asked me a year ago before the Gold Cup, I would say my chances [of going to the World Cup] were pretty slim,” he said. “From there on, it’s been a very positive experience. I feel like I’ve contributed and increased my chances, and here I am.”

Despite growing up in Norway, he visits the United States regularly. During the offseason, he invites Norwegian teammates to join him on vacation. Starting in Arizona, where Diskerud has family, the group tours western states by car.

“I am proud of it, of course. I am a great tour guide,” he said, grinning.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · May 17

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