Sturgis' versatility key as Houston loses more midfielders

With starters out, could newcomer take the reins against Chicago?

HOU_Nathan_Sturgis

Photo Credit: 
Anthony Vasser/Houston Dynamo

When you begin to carve out a career for yourself in MLS, versatility is a key factor which helps to set you apart from the rest. Houston’s Nathan Sturgis could show just how big an asset that is this weekend, as the club could be without three of its starting midfielders due to injury and suspension.

Three midfield spots that Sturgis could compete for are up for grabs, when Houston take on the Chicago Fire (Sunday, 6 pm CT, Galavision). Adam Moffat and Colin Clark are out due to suspension, while Brad Davis is doubtful after he missed Monday's training session with a calf injury.

A midfielder by trade, Sturgis — who came to Houston in an offseason trade with Toronto FC — has taken up a utility role since switching Ontario for Texas, working along the backline while also playing his natural position of central midfielder. The transition has added some challenges to the 24-year-old’s plate, but Sturgis’ play has shown he can handle whatever’s thrown at him.   

“It’s been an adjustment to come in and be playing center back and the midfield,” Sturgis told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve played both positions in the past so it wasn’t too difficult to get back into it. [The transition’s] been good. The guys have been very welcoming and helpful so it’s been easy.”

Sturgis sends free kick just over

While the positional focus is in flux, one thing that has remained consistent is his work ethic. Sturgis’s approach to the game fits in well with a locker room that embraces hard working players such as Brian Ching, Bobby Boswell, Davis and past hard-nosed players such as Eddie Robinson.

“He works hard and brings it every day,” Ching said. “You can see with his routines before and after practice that he’s a good professional. He’ll do what it takes to be healthy and stay on the field. Watching him day in and day out, he has some of the best feet on the team. I think to have such a solid player like him is great.”

But while Sturgis is winning his teammates over in the locker room and on the training field, playing time has been tough to come by so far this season. The former TFC and Seattle Sounders man has appeared just once in 2012, coming on at the end of a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes as he helped to keep a clean sheet and shut the midfield down.

One player who understands how difficult it is to switch positions more than most, is starting central defender Geoff Cameron, who swapped holding midfield for central defense with rave reviews last season.

“It’s a challenge to play positions that are different going from center back to midfield,” Cameron said. “He’s a good player technically and this could be a good opportunity to get on the field and we’re looking forward to having him on the field if he comes in for Moffat or whoever he steps in for. He won’t miss a beat because we’re there around him and will support him.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.