So if you’ve been on the internet the past couple of days, you’ve probably been pelted with articles from rudimentary MLS blogs who can barely contain their excitement because of Mix Diskerud said he is “open to an MLS move” (In reality he said he’s open to any move in general for the coming transfer window, not specifically MLS, but I’m willing to ignore that for the sake of the article). At 24 years old, the young Norwegian/American is just beginning to blossom, and if his performance in recent friendlies is any indication, his ceiling could be very high. He’s bound to get interest from various European Leagues as well as MLS, so where should he go? What should he do?
Nov 2, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Seattle Sounders FC defender Deindre Yedlin (17) vs FC Dallas during the second half at Toyota Stadium. Seattle and FC Dallas tied 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
First off, there is a sad truth we all need to face-that there is a conflict of interest between MLS Clubs and the United States Men’s National Team right now. This may not be news to anyone following the PR war being waged between USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and Don Garber and his gang of MLS owners. Garber & Co have been annoyed, maybe rightfully so, that Jurgen has been adamant his players play in Europe amongst the World’s best. This obviously would negatively affect MLS teams who are pouring time and money into academies only to see their best products jump ship as soon as a big European club shows them the money. In essence, MLS wants to retain its best talent (Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, and Omar Gonzalez) while Jurgen wants them overseas (DeAndre Yedlin whom is pictured right, Joe Gyau, Rubio Rubin).
It boils down to: If our best players go overseas like in the 2000s, MLS suffers. If we retain our best stars, the MNT suffers because its players lack playing time against the world’s CURRENT best players. Sorry, but defending a 36-year-old Thierry Henry isn’t the same as defending Diego Costa.
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We find ourselves in the midst of a tug of war between Europe and MLS for USA’s best players. And it looks like Mix Diskerud is getting caught smack dab in the middle. From now until January, every move he makes, every agent he talks to, every club he visits, is going to be scrutinized by reporters and bloggers such as myself. He’s going to be an ant under a magnifying glass until he decides where he wants to go next.
Many MLS proponents are quick to point to the exodus of USMNT and players to MLS over the course of the last calendar year–Michael Parkhurst, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Damarcus Beasley, and Maurice Edu specifically. And while, yes, their inclusions in the league have improved its quality tenfold, let’s take a closer look at the reasons they’ve come back. Damarcus and Jermaine are close to the end of their careers and MLS was likely the most appealing option in terms of finance, as well as playing time and quality; it was the right call for them. But the two Michaels and Mo Edu came back in their prime because they had no playing time at their club.
Jurgen has been painfully clear on his opinions on Bradley’s return. But what about Maurice and Michael? While I agree with their decisions to come back (3 combined appearances at their European clubs last year), how has it affected their national team stock? Considering both were cut from the 30-man World Cup Roster and have yet to feature for the Stars and Stripes since, I’m going to go ahead and say not very well. And it may be so that Edu is unfortunately buried in a very deep Center-Mid depth chart, Parkhurst in theory should be contending for a starting spot at this juncture of his career. Yet he’s been buried in the depth chart a well, but at a position where the USMNT’s a lot thinner than it is at Central Mid.
And that brings us to Michael Bradley, which in turn brings us full circle back to Mix. Bradley, for the first time since 2007, is no longer a certainty to make the USMNT’s starting XI. This is largely due to the emergence of Mix Diskerud and Lee Nguyen (whose return to MLS got him back into favor so perhaps this is a contradictory inclusion, but then again he returned from the Vietnamese League so MLS was a big improvement).
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Mix holds the edge at the top of a “diamond” midfield due to his form and geography. What’s geography? Well, it means he’s in Europe right now, and in an optimal position to make a leap to a big European club. The Tippeligaen is not a great league, but it’s a good enough stepping stone to European greatness. In theory, Mix could sign with a mid-level club in Holland, Portugal, or France this transfer window and if he impresses, he could be signing for a top four league by June. Take Luis Suarez, who moved from Ajax to Liverpool to Barcelona, or Bradley himself who went from Heerenveen to Monchengladbach to Chievo and then Roma as an example.
Mix’s biggest upper hand over Bradley may very well be his European club. Why would he throw that away by coming back to MLS? He’d be on even terms with Bradley once more, surrendering the one thing he has over Michael. They’re only 2 years apart age-wise (Mix is 24 and Mike is 26) and at this point, Mix is the automatic starter for any friendlies the USA plays in Europe. If he moves to MLS, he’s behind Michael by default. When discussing the Mix-to-Columbus topic last summer, (I’ll get to that shortly), ESPN FC analyst Taylor Twellman brought up a very good point.
A big warning light for Americans in Europe who are considering a European return is that once they’re home, it’s a lot harder to go back to Europe if (God forbid) they change their minds. It’s simply a matter of proxemics. It’s a lot easier for European clubs to monitor other European clubs than MLS. Only young marquee standouts here are going to generate huge interest. Twellman attributes this factor as perhaps the biggest reason Mix stayed at Rosenborg over the summer. Sorry Grant Wahl, but turns out your whole “greedy father/agent” spiel had a lot less to it than was originally insinuated (and that’s coming directly from Mix’s mouth). If you didn’t click that link now is the time to go back and read it because it’s going to come into play later.
Oct 10, 2014; Hartford, CT, USA; USA midfielder Mix Diskerud (8) controls the ball against Ecuador defenseman Walter Ayovi (10) in the first half at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Where does this leave Mix? What should he do? Members of an MLS forum I belong to on Facebook were quick to mention how close he was to signing to Portland in 2012 and Columbus after the World Cup. Back then, Mix had no idea he would ascend this fast. Up until last year’s Gold Cup, not many people, Mix included, thought the young dual-citizen was part of Klinsmann’s long-term USMNT plans. Michael Bradley was in the best form of his life, Sacha Kljeistan and Landon Donovan were both still in the picture, and Jermaine Jones was yet to make the shift to Centre-Back. Diskerud was essentially in the same position that Parkhurst is now, a fringe player at best. Yes, an overseas move made sense for Mix when he was just another name in a hat, yet to set himself apart from the pack. This was still true over the summer, as Mix was one of only two USMNT players not to feature in any World Cup match despite his goal in the Sendoff Series game vs. Azerbaijan.
But oh, how times have changed. Since then, the path to the top for Mix has been paved. Mix has yet to receive a negative review in a match following the World Cup, and was one of only a few bright spots for the Yanks in losses to Ireland and Colombia. He’s also scored twice while almost scoring vs. the Czech Republic. The Rosenborg Midfielder has scratched and clawed his way up the ladder, and is now one of America’s best players. If the World Cup was tomorrow and Jurgen Klinsmann had to name a 23 roster on the spot, Mix would not only make it but probably start.
What does this mean? It means that unlike the 2012 Mix, 2015 Mix has something to lose. And that’s a huge factor in where he lands this upcoming transfer window. If he comes back he risks falling back down the food chain and possibly not being able to go back to Europe.
Not only that, but a closer examination of Columbus (Mix’s likely MLS landing spot) shows that perhaps a Mix move would not make sense. For starters, their midfield is not the problem. It’s lack of a goal scorer. Yes, Mix scores goals but there’s a difference between scoring goals and a goal scorer. Kelyn Rowe scores goals. Dom Dwyer is a goal scorer. Note the distinction. Columbus’s midfield would benefit the inclusion of Diskerud, but at what cost? Columbus doesn’t have an infinite pocketbook like Los Angeles or Seattle, and Mix would likely be a DP who costs over a million dollars per year. A central midfield already including the exciting young Will Trapp would not benefit enough from Mix’s inclusion to justify the ungodly amount of money they’d have to spend on him. So there’s that.
It should be worth noting that I’m not against MLS. I love the league, and while the USMNT fan in me gets disappointed when Clint Dempsey leaves Spurs to come home, the MLS fan in me is ecstatic. So I do want Mix to come to the States eventually. Just not now.
Remember that link I posted earlier that you ignored even after I said to go back and look at it? Well I’m asking again. In it, you’ll find a personal letter from Mix to the fans of Columbus. He has absolutely nothing bad to say about MLS, the United States, or Columbus in the article. He talks about how Columbus’s crowd during the USA’s dos a cero victory over Mexico was the best crowd he’d ever played in front of. He talks about his love for Ohio’s beauty and its perfect representation of American Democracy.
Perhaps most importantly he talks about his parents’ plan for him when he was little (I call it the Mix Plan). He was supposed to attend grade school and high school in Norway, and College in the USA. Life had different ideas, and Norwegian club Stabæk offered him a contract instead. He accepted. See, he basically admits that an American homecoming is long overdue in this letter. He basically admits that in one point of his career, be it today or 6 years from today, he’s going to come back. Which brings me to this article’s thrilling finale. I call it: The Mix Plan 2.0.
Step one of the Mix Plan is complete. Rise through the ranks of both the USMNT and Rosenborg (the marquee Tippeligaen team), garnering interest from throughout Europe. Step two, is sign a contract with one of those teams, let’s say Celtic for the fun of it. Step 3, is have a breakout year at said club and nab a big contract with an elite European squad. Once again, for argument’s sake, let’s say Borussia Dortmund. Step 4: Play 3 to 4 years at big European squad until Australia 2018 (Oh yeah, in my mind FIFA pulls its head out of it’s you-know-what and gives Australia the World Cup because we all know Australia deserves it but I digress. This article is getting long). Step 5: Be amazing at the 2018 World Cup as the USMNT loses to Colombia in PK’s in the Semifinal but beats Spain 2-1 to claim 3rd in the tournament. Step 6: Barring Real Madrid offering Mix a billion dollars, he signs to MLS at 28 years old. Young enough to be in his prime still but old enough where European teams may not want to invest too much into him.
There we go. Mix Diskerud, ladies and gentlemen. Norwegian superstar, free agent bachelor soccer player holding the rose while teams from USA, Europe, and Qatar all stand around him wearing a lot of makeup and dresses that aren’t theirs. One lucky one will be chosen in the coming transfer season.
Mix is going to be the most exciting player to watch in the next 5 years for the USA (sorry Julian Green, but we need to see more). However, as is true with many soccer players, the wrong choice like coming home too soon could alter his path and turn him into a shell of his true potential. Not saying he will never come over, but he needs to make sure he can do all that he can in Europe before fulfilling his Prodigal Son prophecy and sporting Yellow and Black. After all, he isn’t solely European or American. He’s a Mix.