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Columbus Crew SC Welcome Home Another of their Own

Eric Gehrig makes his return to Columbus Friday night with Crew SC rivals Chicago Fire.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, veteran defender Chad Marshall made his return to Columbus for the first time since he was traded to the Seattle Sounders. On Friday night, defender Eric Gehrig will also return, bringing with him his new club, the Chicago Fire.

Gehrig doesn't have the MLS Cup Championship or two Defender of the Year honors with Columbus Crew SC the way Marshall did, but that doesn't mean he is missed any less in Columbus.

"We'd love to have him still, but things didn't work out," winger Justin Meram said. "It's good to [have him] back. He's excited, he's for sure excited."

Over the course of his four years with the Black and Gold, Gehrig made 46 appearances along the back line or in central midfield. Used mostly in a reserve role for the first three years - only 18 starts over that time - Gehrig had a breakout season last year under new head coach Gregg Berhalter, playing in a career high 20 games and starting 14.

Despite the successful season, Gehrig was left unprotected in last offseason's Expansion Draft where he was selected in the 10th round by Orlando City SC. Gehrig never made it to Orlando before he was traded to the Fire in exchange for a 2016 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick.

"I think it's great. It was hard to get rid of the four or five guys we got rid of last year and it's good to see them involved with other teams and playing," Berhalter said this week when asked about Gehrig making his return trip to Columbus.

"Eric has been playing and it's good to see him home and able to play for his hometown team."

The Chicago native has made seven appearances for the Fire, all starts, but was an unused substitute the last two games.

Gehrig made plenty of appearances for the Black and Gold, but what he made most were relationships and those live beyond drafts or trades.

"Eric's a true professional on and off the field and a guy that you want to have in your locker room," winger Ethan Finlay told Massive Report this week.

"Unfortunately we lost him this last year and we wish him well.

"He's a class guy and definitely a guy I keep in touch with and I think many of the guys on this team keep in touch with. He's well respected around the league."

If Gehrig does make an appearance on Saturday, it will likely be at right back. This means he could go head-to-head with one his best friends in Meram. What will that be like?

"It's going to be a lot of trash talk, maybe some laughter," Meram said. "When I played against Chad against Seattle, I was marking him on corners. We were saying some things to each other. It's good to know guys, but at the end of the day you've got a job to do and you want to come out on top."

The two came into the league at the same time and until the potential matchup Friday night, only went against each other in training. All those hours on the practice field may come in handy in this contest.

"For me, I know his strengths and kind of when he goes forwards and defends and I think he knows my strengths as well when I attack," Meram explained. "That's when you make the big bucks is when you have to figure out a way to change your game up when you're going up against an opponent that knows you and pull something out of the hat."

The former undrafted Discovery Signing has carved out a nice career for himself. Friday will be the first time he will walk onto the pitch at MAPFRE wearing colors other than black and gold.

While it will be nice to see him return, once the game starts it's all about business. Just like they did against Seattle and Marshall, Crew SC will be looking to send their former teammate home with a loss and three more points for Gehrig's former side.