Let’s play name the U.S. player: How many of these relatively unfamiliar faces do you recognize as the U.S. trains today in South Africa?. That’s soon to be former Chivas USA defender Jonathan Bornstein up front and then? A full roster is at the link at the bottom of the post if that helps (AP Photo).
The friendly airs at 11 a.m. Wednesday on ESPN2 and Galavision: CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Mikkel Diskerud’s father is from Norway. His mother is from Arizona.
After playing for Norway’s Under-17 team, he switched to the U.S. Under-20s. And on Wednesday, he could make his U.S. national team debut in a year-ending exhibition against South Africa.
“I’m half-Norwegian. Maybe I’ve got some Viking skills,” Diskerud said as the young U.S. team practiced ahead of the match.
While the U.S. is making its fourth trip to South Africa in a three-year span to play in an
exhibition known as the “Nelson Mandela Challenge,” this American team looks much different from the others. It is missing most of its regulars, including Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and captain Carlos Bocanegra.
Instead, coach Bob Bradley selected a young roster than includes six players who have never played for the national team. Among them is Diskerud, a 20-year-old midfielder with Stabaek in Norway who was nicknamed “Mix” 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. “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.”
As the U.S. prepares for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the start of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, Diskerud could be in the mix of a revamped American roster. Since the U.S. was eliminated by Ghana in the second round of the World Cup, Galaxy central defender Omar Gonzalez, Aston Villa right back Eric Lichaj, Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones and Dallas midfielder Brek Shea all have made their debuts.
Other newcomers who could appear Wednesday for the first time are New York defender Tim Ream and forward Juan Agudelo, Estoril Praia defender Gale Agbossoumonde (right), Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury and Glasgow Celtic backup goalkeeper Dominic Cervi.
“Right now I’m focused on trying to contribute,” Diskerud said. “Hopefully I will continue to get more opportunities to be a part of this team.”
Diskerud took a traditional European route to a soccer career. He joined Stabaek’s youth program in 2005, played for the B team in the second division and made his first-team debut a year later. He made his Champions League debut in a qualifier at Tirana in July 2009.
“Since I was a little kid it was my dream,” he said. “You grow up watching the competition, and next thing you know you are on the field playing against some of the best players in the world. It’s nice to see how high the standard is and learn how to try and become a better player.”
He has seven goals in 47 appearances with Stabaek. The U.S. doesn’t have any proven
goal-scorers after Donovan and Dempsey.
“I try to read the game.” Diskerud said. “Growing up I looked up to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. He was a smart player and he was great at finding positions on the field.”
He appeared to waver at first on which national team to play for, appearing for the U.S. in one youth tournament, then switching to Norway, then scoring for the U.S. Under-20s against Egypt last year.
Just as for many players in the U.S. pool, soccer wasn’t his only sport growing up.
“I played any sports that involved a ball, like basketball, squash and golf,” he said. “I was
a pretty good basketball player, and at one point I had to make a choice.”
Midfield is the deepest position on the U.S. team, with Donovan, Dempsey and Michael Bradley holding down starting spots. There’s also Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu and Jones.
Agbossoumonde, who was born in Togo, also hopes to become a national team regular. He’s been a part of the U.S. youth program all along.
Given Oguchi Onyewu’s slow recovery from a knee injury, and the ages of Bocanegra (31), Jay DeMerit (31 on Dec. 4) and Clarence Goodson (28), there could be room for new central defenders.
Agbossoumonde rates his ability in the air as a strong point, and lists Spain and Barcelona defender Carles Puyol as a role model.
“He’s an animal on the field, and a very hardworking player,” Agbossoumonde said.
Agbossoumonde turns 19 Wednesday, so his debut could come as a birthday present.
“I have had good experiences with the U.S. youth national teams and the U.S. Soccer
Development Academy, which have helped me develop,” he said. “I hope to continue to improve and learn from the veteran players, and that could eventually lead to an opportunity to play with the full team.”
Gonzalez and Ream also will be given chances to earn center back spots during the next cycle.
“There are a lot of great up-and-coming defenders in the U.S. program,” Agbossoumonde said, “and I’m just hoping to prove that I deserve a chance to keep getting invited back.”
NOTES: Siphiwe Tshabalala’s shot for South Africa against Mexico in the World Cup opener is a finalist announced Tuesday for FIFA goal of the year.
Here’s the complete roster.