Mikkel Morgenstar Pålssønn Diskerud, more commonly known as Mix, spoke with Eight by Eight’s Andrew Helms ahead of the United States friendly against Ecuador in Hartford, CT.
After facing a crowded American midfield in the past World Cup cycle, Mix stands ready to inherit the levers to an American attack in need of ideas and invention. Between training sessions in Boston, Mix talked about the future of the national team, stepping out of his comfort zone, and—most importantly—his hair.
It’s been three months since the World Cup. Looking back, how do you think about that tournament and the U.S. performance?
It’s great fun. You know, it’s the World Cup, and it’s in Brazil. It doesn’t really get any bigger and better than that. People called it the Group of Death, and it was perfect for us because we were kind of the underdogs and every game we managed to step up to the plate and do our job. To go through that group was difficult and a lot of people didn’t believe in us. Seeing back in the U.S. how many people got involved with soccer in the U.S. that was amazing and that truly inspired us, I think.
For me, I got to experience a lot. I got to see what it takes to become a world-class player.
Entering this new World Cup cycle, you’re a veteran player on a team that’s young. Do you feel your role changing during this camp?
Of course, I want to develop as a player, and Coach Klinsmann has gone out and said that. He wants people like me to step up to the plate and show their presence. We had a game in Prague, and I felt like I managed to do that to a certain degree. In the World Cup, there were a lot of midfielders that were 32, and I feel like it’s my turn now. You’ve got to perform all the time that’s what is fun about soccer. There’s so many people that want to be in the starting eleven or in the squad so you always have to perform. I feel like it’s my chance now, and I have to show what I can do.
Jurgen Klinsmann said recently that the goal for the team at the 2018 World Cup should be to reach the semifinals. I’m curious, when you heard that, what was your reaction?
It’s a big goal, but you want to strive for it. You always want to develop and set high goals. I think we can accomplish that. There’s a lot of hard work, of course. Nothing comes easy, but if he tells us we can do it, then we’ve just got to believe in that.
From your perspective as a player, what needs to happen within the team to get there?
It’s all about training in soccer, I would say. You know if you train hard and work hard, it’s going to help a lot. There’s talent, but they say hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard, and I very much agree with that. If you can combine those two things, the sky is the limit.
So you think it’s more about the mentality than the tactics?
It’s everything. That’s what I like about soccer. Everything comes into play. The team has to function well together. You can have a star player, but maybe he doesn’t function well with the team. That’s what soccer is about.
On a related note, Klinsmann often says it’s up to players to leave their comfort zones and always try and prove it on another level. As a player, how do you leave your comfort zone?
You do other things than what you used to do. I wasn’t really fond of the weight room. After talking to different people and Jurgen was one of them, I’ve started to hit the gym much more than I used to. Now it’s kind of a fun thing to do. When you see results and you have fun at the gym. That was something I didn’t do for several years but now it’s part of my daily routine.
You’re well known in U.S. soccer circles for using social media. You post on Big Soccer, you have a Twitter fan club, and, more broadly, athletes are increasingly expected to becoming public figures with Instagram and Twitter feeds. Do you ever feel uncomfortable with this new requirement to publicize various aspects of your private life?
I don’t go too private, you know. There have been many requests from newspapers in Norway about wanting to come visit my home with me so I won’t do that. But my personal opinions are something I like to share, and sometimes I’ll go away without saying anything, but if I have things that I want to say, I’ll say it. I enjoy hearing reactions and seeing what people think.
Does it ever get to you? You know you have a bad game and someone says something bad on Twitter?
No, not at all. I understand it myself if I have a bad game. If it’s a positive critique or a negative one, I kinda know myself.
Is there any history of baldness in your family?
My father—he’s not bald but what’s it called when you don’t have on top but it’s on the side. So if he wears a cap he looks like he has hair?
Male-pattern baldness, I think.
Yeah so it worries me a little bit, but I heard it’s your mother’s father. That’s what you should look at. And he has a lot of hair so I’m crossing my fingers.
— Mix Diskerud (@MixDiskerud) June 12, 2014
What’s the weirdest thing anyone has ever said to you about your hair?
People want to buy it. Many people have said that. There’s been a lot of things though. I can’t really seem to remember right now, but there’s been many talks about the hair. People want to buy it. They ask me to cut it and send it to them and they’ll offer money.
Would you ever cut it?
I can’t cut my hair! When I was younger I had short hair, and I don’t think it looked too good. I have a passport photo on my American passport, and it doesn’t look good. People laugh on the team, they don’t think it’s me.
We also hear you are very good at Ping-Pong? How’d you get so good?
I’ve always had a Ping-Pong table anywhere I’ve lived. Any sports with balls I’ve enjoyed. Squash, tennis, and Ping-Pong, basketball and golf.
Is there anyone who can come close to as good as you?
[Mix turns around to teammate Alejandro Bedoya]
Mix: Who is the second best at Ping-Pong, Ale?
Mix: No, no. Graham Zusi and then Brad Davis. They’re pretty good.
Did you ever play any other sports competitively?
Yeah, I played golf and basketball in Norway. So that was fun, but at a certain age I had to choose because it was kind of too much. But for me you know I think it helped. You know, being point guard in basketball, assisting people, deciding the tempo of the game, I would say that helped me.
Did you ever think about basketball being the sport you’d try and play at a higher level?
When I was younger yeah, but basketball in Norway is not the same as soccer so everyone gets drawn to soccer. I understood I wasn’t going to become two meters [Editor’s note: 6’6.] pretty early so it was an easy choice.
On Friday against Ecuador, you’re going to honor Landon Donovan’s career. Is there a memory or story about you and Landon that really stand out to you.
Soccer wise, the thing I remember most is the assist I had to him in the qualifying game against Mexico. That was fun. First of all: Columbus. Just the whole atmosphere around that game was crazy with the fans you know. I came in, and we were winning 1-0 after Eddie Johnson scored. Michael Pankhurst, he passed it to me. I chipped the ball up to myself, kneed it down, went down to the cross line, and I saw Clint and Landon there making a run, and Landon did what he does best. He finds those spots, and he kind of smells the goals.
But off the field he’s a terrific guy, always been super nice to me and humble. He helps out all the players that need help. Nothing bad to say about him, actually.
Taking over the #10 from Landon, does that mean a lot to you?
Personally, it doesn’t mean a lot to me, no. As I said before, I play for the crest on the front of the jersey, not really what’s on the back. I’ve heard a lot of people that have opinions about that, but for me you have to have a number. I understand that #10 is Landon’s number. I’m not going to try to take that away from him.