Despite watching Real Salt Lake's first two games from the bench, midfielder Nate Sturgis knew his opportunity in the starting 11 would eventually come. After all, not only did he start five games last year, but he's also one of the top young players in MLS and a lock for the Olympic team later this summer.
After last week's performance in his 2008 debut, it's hard to imagine Sturgis vacating the starting 11 anytime soon.
The 20-year-old started at holding midfield in RSL's 4-0 shellacking of D.C. United last weekend and was a big contributor in the lopsided win.
"He's a player that played a lot of minutes for us when we traded for him last year ... and we were wanting to get him an opportunity somewhere on the field," said Real coach Jason Kreis. "It just happened that that spot opened up where there was a player that we didn't feel had a particularly strong game. So we wanted to put somebody else there."
That poor performance belonged to Carey Talley in RSL's 3-1 loss at Chivas USA in Week 2. The coaching staff could've inserted Kyle Beckerman or Dema Kovalenko into that defensive midfield role but instead opted for Sturgis, who played as an outside midfielder in his five starts last season.
The result was better than expected as Sturgis did an admirable serving as a link between the defenders and the rest of the team.
"I felt like I played a pretty good game, and we won so that makes things a lot better," said Sturgis, who missed nine league games with a calf strain toward the end of last season. "I did a lot of defending because they were pushing a lot of numbers forward. Usually when we attacked it was a quick counterattack so I really didn't have time to get forward as much."
Sturgis' quick feet are one of his strengths according to the coaching staff, and he can usually find his way out of tight spots. That was something that Talley struggled with against Chivas USA, which led to several mistakes, about three or four counterattack opportunities and eventually his benching.
As for Sturgis, now that he's cracked the starting 11, he's going to do everything in his power to remain there.
"This team, we're deep and there's always a guy right behind you," said Sturgis. "If you're not up to the top of your game, another guy will step in, so when you do get a chance to step on the field with the first team you need to take advantage, or it will be another guy waiting for your spot."
He's hoping another solid performance against Toronto FC this Saturday entrenches him in that spot further.