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Ladies and gentleman, I’ve been saying for the past few years that Mix Diskerud is a burgeoning superstar and recently that he’s the USMNT’s genuine #10. He’s the central piece in the middle that will help guide the bright future of the young national team. It’s also been mentioned on this blog that it was a mistake for the Columbus Crew not to pursue Mix a second time late last year. Trading Josh Williams also wasn’t the wisest decision. The Crew lost 1-nil at Houston in their season opener Saturday night and yesterday the expansion club NYCFC (with Mix) tied fellow expansion club Orlando City 1-1.

Guess who opened up the scoring in the 76th minute?

And this is just the first game of the MLS season for the skillfully perceptive 24-year old American. He’s also an equally impressive distributor of the ball.

Mix It Up This Week!

P.S. Who is the majority owner of NYCFC? The same group that owns Manchester City. Mix will likely be wearing sky blue jerseys for many seasons, except the city where he resides may change down the road…

The Worst Call Wasn’t Made During a Game

There was a story today in the Columbus Dispatch that, for all intents and purposes, revealed the Columbus Crew SC effectively chose Kei Kamara (30 years old) over the future #10 on the USMNT for years to come in Mix Diskerud (24 years old). In no universe driven by good judgement, insight and a high soccer IQ does this make any sense…at all. Mix and Kei are not on the same level whatsoever, which is clearly evident for any soccer fan who has seen them both play. After a failed attempt to sign Diskerud’s services last year, which reportedly broke down at the very last stage of negotiation (ended by Mix’s father?), the Crew then signed Kamara. The allocation system for MLS knocked Columbus off the coveted number one spot after signing Kamara, which ended the Crew’s chances of adding Mix’s dynamism and relentless effort (offensively and defensively) to the black and gold.

And if you’re thinking this seems like déjà vu, you’d be absolutely correct. Kamara was an average forward (though admittedly young) for Columbus from 2006-2007. Now, he did score a good number of goals later on for the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. However, he fizzled out of his most recent clubs at Norwich City and Middlesbrough.

Will his stock rise again in 2015? Possibly, but that’s not the point.   

It needs to be noted this is nothing personal against Kamara, but rather a reaction to Columbus impatiently and purposefully forfeiting the talent, vision and future stardom of Mix Diskerud to the already stacked NYCFC. What’s more is that Mix had said that he would be like to play in Columbus, citing the atmosphere and American soccer history related to “Dos-a-Cero” as a reason to come, among other reasons like the city itself. The best soccer managers strike while the iron’s hot and, after 2013 and 2014, Mix Diskerud’s stock was a broker’s dream. Buy low and watch as his valuation takes-off like Apple (AAPL) after a new product announcement. Despite the fact Mix get on the field in the World Cup because Klinsmann chose a defensive Fort Knox central midfield against superior opponents as opposed to splashing creativity in the middle (which was a coaching mistake), Mix is part of a fantastic generation of young players in their mid-early 20s who will lead the USMNT from this point forward.

This news is still just simply surreal. If there was ever a window for Columbus to get Mix, the past several months were it. Literally. Now, Berhalter and Co. (with venture capitalist and Crew owner Anthony Precourt) deserve credit for going after him. That’s certainly acknowledged. But to give up these efforts by signing a former player, who is six years older than Mix and who was forgettable in his final-third finishes for the Crew is mind-boggling. Imagine the partnership of Wil Trapp and Mix Diskerud for the Columbus Crew SC: young and talented workaholics with vision who, quite likely, could be the future central midfield for the USMNT. Mix’s style positively defines teams with a competitive identity and consistently leads to goals, assists and, yes, wins. His addition would’ve helped in last years playoff disaster against the New England Revolution (as well as a competent defensive line, a forward who scores goals and a comprehensively dynamic strategy).

I have said before and will say again that Mix Diskerud is the future #10 (jersey number and talent wise) for the United States and is a superstar in the making. He is a player worth an exhaustible effort and investment. While it’s possible that the Crew knew he would never sign after their initial effort, it’s also quite possible that they caved to the unknown for the known, which includes the record-breaking re-signing of play-maker Federico Higuaín (currently #10). When Sigi Schmid orchestrated his Crew team that won the 2008 MLS Cup, it was a squad that included players who were Columbus Crew staples (Chad Marshall), UCLA-friend Frankie Hejduk and players barely known to the everyday fan (Steven Lenhart), as well as Argentine superstar Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Schmid took chances and got the exact right players for the exact right positions for a remarkable championship season.

In other words, the Crew had the right mix

The Other Beautiful Game

As player’s have regained their energy and coaches alike have had time to reflect on the group stage and exhausting round of 16 World Cup finale versus Belgium, the USMNT will likely feel equally proud, yet unsatisfied. While not all of their young and exciting talent was utilized (ie- #10 Mix Diskerud and #9 Aron Jóhannsson) and key players failed to shine to their full potential (ie- Michael Bradley), there are signs that point to a bright future for the Americans. DeAndre Yedlin showed he has world-class pace, raw talent and a skill for crossing dangerous balls into the opponent’s 18-yard box as a defender on the flank. John Brooks is clearly an offensive threat on corner kicks and Julian Green has vision that will soon impress Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola for serious senior team consideration between now and 2016 and 2018.

The rub: If the USMNT is going to take the next step and compete for a World Cup and not just in one, it must have faith in itself and dare to go for that dream. Overloading the central midfield with defense, which leaves a creative void in the middle that was desperately needed to bridge the gap with the forwards, sends a message to the team and their opponents that they are, in effect, surrendering the mental chess game.

Teams cannot win the World Cup playing only checkers, waiting to jump the competition one or two times in 90 minutes.

Speaking of daring to play and engage in a game of chess versus a grandmaster…

Seems like he’s got the mindset to be pretty good at breaking down opponents’ defenses.

If given the chance to play, he’ll be passing and/or shooting his way to checkmates left and right for the USMNT.

Mês de Ouro do Futebol!

(The Title is, “Soccer’s Golden Month!” in Portuguese)

90+ minutes, 32 national teams, 22 players on the pitch, 3 misguided referees (depending on who you’re cheering for) and one ultimate winner.

The beautiful game, for which it’s known universally across all cultures and languages, will once again step onto the world’s stage starting today at 4:00 p.m. ET for its biggest tournament: The World Cup. Having visited Los Angles in the summer of 1994 for my birthday when the United States hosted this magnificent sporting spectacle, I was fortunate enough to visit the Soccer Fest at the LA Convention Center. There, I saw something I’ll never forget. Despite being protected by thick transparent glass, its shining glory could not be contained. Golden in every way stood The FIFA World Cup ™ Trophy. Gazing in a moment of surrealism and, ironically, clarity, I had but one goal in life: to hoist that trophy above my head as a champion of the world wearing the red, white and blue.

20 years later (and one month from now) and one national team (which, sadly will not include me) will have the honor of fulfilling that very exercise. It will be historic, powerful and rewarding in every way imaginable. Fans will remember this moment forever. Stories will be told and, if one’s lucky, will be given the permanent tag of a national legend in his country.

So, what teams should we be watching a little more closely than others? What players will stand-out with stellar performances?

I’m glad you asked.

Teams to Watch (in no particular order):

Brazil – They’re the hosts in a futebol-rich culture with a young superstar in Neymar (22) who is looking to provide his fellow Brazilians with a few Pelé flashbacks/comparisons. Are they the best team? Debatable. But expect them to make some noise well beyond the group stage, both on the pitch and in the streets with a party or two…

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, and Nani are three of the players on a team that finally shined for a few games internationally at the 2012 UEFA Euro 2012 tournament. They’re fast, athletic and dangerous. Plus, Ronaldo is at the top of his game right now. As mentioned before on this blog, the slogan this team should have on the side of their bus is: “We Have a Star Player Named Ronaldo Who Speaks Portuguese Playing at the World Cup in Brazil…I Mean, C’mon.”

France – Franck Ribéry  With Ribéry ruled out of the competition with an injury, so go France’s chances to advance far in the tournament. Unfortunate for them, but likely true.

Argentina – There are infinite discussions about Neymar and Brazil’s chances for a return to World Cup glory. However, recall that Lionel Messi is still searching to cement his legacy as an elite footballer beyond his ridiculous club statistics and silly awesome performances at Barcelona. A World Cup hosted by a neighboring South American nation…It’s almost a perfect situation.

Germany – Neuer, Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Kroos, Götze, Podolski and Klose. Elite, veteran leadership coupled with a dynamite youth movement. Damn (or Verdammt). Enough said.

Belgium – This team could very well become the trendy pick/fun team to follow at the 2014 World Cup. Think Uruguay in South Africa four years ago…

Uruguay – Two names: Luis Suárez and Diego Forlán.

Holland – They will have (arguably) the best offensive/attacking set of players in Brazil in Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Conversely, their defense will be young without a tremendous amount of experience (beyond a few of the defenders from Feyenoord). Still, Louis Van Gaal is their manager, so this orange Lion may roar with surprising purpose and confidence in the jungles of Brazil…

Spain – Yeah, they only won the World Cup in 2010 with a squad that features many of the same players who stood before the globe as soccer’s biggest champions in South Africa. How soon people forget as Spain has garnered very little fanfare going into Brazil. Their first game versus the Dutch (FYI- a 2010 Final rematch) will be telling in terms of the team’s initial momentum in trying to reach peak form again.

Players to Watch (in no particular order):

Arjen Robben (Holland)

Diego Forlán (Uruguay)

Fernando Torres (Spain)

Eden Hazard (Belgium)

Philipp Lahm (Germany)

Iker Casillas (Spain)

Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Wesley Sneijder (Holland)

Neymar (Brazil)

Mario Götze (Germany)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina)

Michael Bradley (United States of America)

Robin Van Persie (Holland)

Manuel Neuer (Germany)

Mix Diskerud (United States of America)

Before any kickoffs, what teams will likely make the final?

Again. I’m glad you asked!

A Projected 2014 World Cup Final:

Germany versus Argentina

And (as of right now) it’s looking like the 2014 World Cup Champion will be…

Argentina

In picking the winner of the 2014 World Cup, a meeting with a marketing professional yesterday provided me with a unique perspective to use for this prediction. It stemmed from a phrase she used repeatedly, “leadership through guidance.” Regarding soccer, it’s not necessarily just about star power, but evaluating what team has the players and coaching staff to translate their vision into beautiful soccer on the Brazilian pitch in moments of chaos, clarity and some unexpected confusion.

Bottom line: It’s going to be a fun, wild and all-around b-e-a-utiful month of world-class soccer and partying in Brazil.

É Kickoff Time!