When rookie forward Mark Sherrod got to BBVA Compass Stadium Sunday he did not know what his role would be for the evening’s game. Head coach Dominic Kinnear had given him a heads up Saturday that his number could be called, but there was no certainty.
In the locker room it was clinched: Sunday against Real Salt Lake would be his first MLS start.
Sherrod’s chance came with Will Bruin ruled out due to a knee injury. Kinnear said after the game that Bruin felt some discomfort his knee and told him before the game he could not go, opening the door for the rookie’s first start.
“There was a question mark, so I definitely had it in my head so I had prepared myself,” Sherrod said. “Dom had kind of hinted at something. He gave me a hint to maybe be ready so I wasn’t in total shock.”
How did he respond? He scored two goals in a performance that, while part of a dire day for the club, was memorable.
“It was great to get a goal; obviously I would have loved to get a victory as well,” the rookie said. “First start, first goals, can’t deny that was a great feeling.”
Looking at the two goals scored by Sherrod and they show all you need to know about why he got his shot. The first goal was a sharp move in the box where he simply beat veteran Nat Borchers to a Brad Davis corner. His second was a hustle play where he got to a ball before two RSL players and was able to slot home a ball past World Cup-bound Nick Rimando.
Two goals off two plays that required effort and hustle from him, something he has no problem putting forth. It also shows what he has all season, which he can contribute to his club’s success.
After being picked in the second round of this year's MLS SuperDraft, Sherrod’s made seven appearances already and is part of a young group working hard for the club.
“You can look at the people that are not ten-year veterans, not five-year veterans getting playing time,” Sherrod said. “A perfect example’s Warren [Creavalle] and he’s doing great. Why can’t we come in and do the same thing because we’re all working hard.”
That hard work has paid off as Sherrod and AJ Cochran were the first pair of rookies to start a game for the Dynamo since Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie in 2011 (Two first-year MLS players, Jason Johnson and Alexander López, started in 2013, but López had prior professional experience).
His performance was a bright spot, but there were mistakes.
He made rookie miscues and his hustle got the better of him; just ask Boniek Garcia, whom he clattered into in the second half and sent to the turf. But his workrate outweighed any issues on a day where Houston had few positives to look back on.
It was a moment Sherrod will not forget: “It was definitely a great feeling.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.