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Houston Dynamo rookie Mark Sherrod drawing Conor Casey comparisons after hot start

HOUSTON – Mark Sherrod has taken advantage of his opportunities.

Drafted by the Houston Dynamo in the second round of this year’s SuperDraft (No. 32 overall), the big forward has worked his way from first earning a contract to becoming a late-game substitute to starting the past two games, where he’s produced two goals and an assist. Helping him work up the ladder has been his work ethic and willingness to mix things up in the air and on the ground, along with a finishing touch around goal.

As he becomes more a part of the mix, those traits have his teammates thinking of another striker who shares the same characteristics and “hairdo” as the rookie.

“I think he has some [Conor] Casey qualities to him for sure, even with the bald heads,” said Omar Cummings, who played with Casey while with the Colorado Rapids. “He knows what he’s good at and has a ton of energy to move around and is a good size guy. Very good in the air, so he has the capability, he has the talent and the tools to do the job.”

Casey and Sherrod share the same work ethic and willingness to mix it up on the field. Also, both are better with their feet and finishing than some may think.

Casey parlayed those skills into an MLS Cup title with Cummings in 2010 and 19 appearances with the US national team, scoring two goals and setting up the winning free kick in a 2009 World Cup qualifier at Honduras that clinched qualification. He also chipped in 41 goals while playing six years in Germany.

No one is putting Sherrod on the USMNT anytime soon, but it is a good comparison and one that strikes a chord with the rookie.

“He’s unbelievable. He’s been in the league for a long time,” said Sherrod, who also noted he tries to copy some of Netherlands forward Dennis Bergkamp’s playing style. “He has a ton of accolades, and just to be compared to him is something else.”

While comparisons can be made, Sherrod is doing the things rookies are supposed to do. He is keeping his head down and trying to work hard and learn from others. Still, his teammates and head coach Dominic Kinnear have pointed to his ability to play with calm and work within the system.

That work had him teamed up with Will Bruin over the weekend as the club’s strike tandem in a 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy.

“I thought it worked pretty good,” Kinnear said. “It’s like any forward combination, when they’re close together and thinking the same it’s good. And I think they were doing that at times, and when they weren’t doing it they were close. I think they have a good understanding and they talk to each other and they both want each other to do well.”

If things keep progressing, that could turn into a regular spot for Sherrod.

“You try and keep things simple and don’t try to overdo it,” Cummings said, recalling of his first days in the league. “You try and keep it simple and work your ass off. … Mentally he’s been keeping it simple, and it’s been working out. He’s not selfish and he will put you in and is a good team player all around.”

Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.