In the aftermath of the news that New York City FC have sold Kwadwo Poku to NASL side Miami FC, our attention now draws to another mercurial midfielder in City Blue: Mix Diskerud. Since his signing was announced by the club over two years ago, the fans’ reaction to Diskerud has gone from (probably unfounded) high expectations to perpetual frustration with the American International midfielder. And now, much like last season, it is continuing to look as Diskerud was a bad signing for New York City FC.
Now, first off, I must confess: I have been a Mix Diskerud defender. Even last season, when our very own Raf Noboa y Rivera wrote this scintillating take on Mix Diskerud, I hopped on the comment board as one of Mix’s strongest supporters. And the reasons last season not to jump ship were legitimate: Kreis played him out of position all season long, first as a holding midfielder, and then most of the second half of the season as a right winger. It was his first season in MLS, which was admittedly a higher level of competition than he was used to in Norway. And, for a time, he was still looking pretty good for USMNT. Remember this goal he scored last year versus Germany?
This friendly took place last June, 2015. During the heart of the MLS season, and it showed a Mix Diskerud we weren’t seeing for New York City FC. But with the adjustment to the new league, Kreis not finding the right place to put him on the field, it seemed perhaps it was just a case of needing to be patient in order to get the full Mix Diskerud experience in City Blue.
Fast forward to 2016 and Jason Kreis has been replaced with new head coach Patrick Vieira. While Kreis tinkered with many different formations, Vieira has for the most part played a consistent 4-3-3 this season, with a brief dalliance with the "WM" formation for the club’s first home stint. And in both formations, Vieira has played Diskerud in his preferred position in central midfield. He has even given Mix freedom to push up into the attack more then he was able to last season. And once again, Mix started the season off strong, even scoring a goal and picking up an assist in the club’s first match this season. Things looked up for Mix and the club.
But, as we all know, the team floundered at home. A new winless streak started, invoking memories of last season, almost a year to date. Vieira, not content with just rolling out the same lineup hoping for better results, did some lineup tinkering. In came Mikey Lopez and Federico Bravo into the starting XI, and he moved Tommy McNamara up to the left winger position. Mix now found himself on the bench. Using Mix as a super-sub wasn’t exactly a crazy idea in itself, but no one would’ve thought that Lopez and Bravo would be the names pulling him out of the starting lineup. But Vieira’s move paid off, and the team has been much more competitive ever since (Red Bull loss notwithstanding). Once again, Mix found himself on the outside looking in.
Mix had gone from being one of the supposed "stars" of New York City FC, to just a guy. Not being able to overcome competition and break into the Starting XI has even cost him potential call ups by the USMNT, as he was rightly left off the roster this summer for the Copa América Centenario. But even that is not the worst of it. The "rock-bottom" moment came on June 15th, when New York City FC, once again, lost in the Open Cup versus NASL side and New York rivals, the New York Cosmos. Mix was put in the starting XI and even given the captain’s armband. Mix Diskerud, one of the team’s marquee signings in it’s inaugural season, a previously frequent call up for the USMNT, should’ve stood out in this game as the best player on the field when looking at both sides’ lineups.
What happened instead was an invisible performance by him and the front 3 of Patrick Mullins, Khiry Shelton, and Kwadwo Poku. Fans were outraged at the result, and even were annoyed at the starting XI that Vieira put out for this match as well. Vieira took ownership for his selections for that but also had this to say about the XI he selected:
"I’m a little disappointed, yes, because I gave some players a chance to perform, to show me that they deserved to play more and they didn’t show it today," Vieira said. "And that’s why I’m quite really frustrated, because the trust I had in them, they didn’t have it back.
"It’s difficult for me to accept," he continued.
These were not hollow words from Vieira. In the matches that followed this loss, both wins versus the Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders, Mix Diskerud was not even able to crack the 18. The same could be said about Kwadwo Poku, who’s now been sold to Miami FC in the NASL. Could Mix be the next player on the chopping block? He very well could be. For what it’s worth, Mix has managed 4 goals and 3 assists in 39 appearances for New York City FC in the past two seasons. Poku outpaced Diskerud’s production during his time in the Bronx, scoring 5 goals and tallying 7 assists in 34 appearances. At the beginning of this season, Reyna had this so say about both players:
"They have a lot to learn," Reyna said. "I think it’s important this season for both of them to perform to an even better level. They have a lot of qualities and I think one of the things that I think Patrick will instill into Poku and Mix is even better training habits."
It’s become apparent over the course of this season that those hopes both Reyna and Vieira had for seeing improvements in both players’ work ethic and willingness to rise to the call have not been fulfilled.
Last season Jason Kreis used Mix Diskerud like a swiss army knife, deploying him wherever he thought he needed his services. This season, Vieira has given Mix every chance he can to succeed, putting him in positions more suited to his strengths. Despite both approaches on how to use Mix, the results have been the same: underwhelming. And depending what happens in this summer’s transfer window, underwhelming could be the lasting impression New York City FC fans will be left with when it comes to Mix Diskerud.