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Columbus Crew SC exercises contract options on three midfielders

The Black & Gold cemented three key players for the club’s 2017 roster.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC announced on Friday that the contract options of three key midfielders have been exercised.

The Black & Gold will have the services of Designated Player Federico Higuain, Homegrown product Wil Trapp and longtime veteran Justin Meram next season.

“We are glad to have Federico, Justin and Wil back for 2017 as they have been important pieces of our club in their time here,” sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter said in the press release. “Each of them continues to play a key role in our system and we look forward to their continued contributions on and off the field next season."

Per the press release...

Higuain, Meram and Trapp have combined for 370 matches played, 64 goals and 70 assists for Crew SC, with Meram currently the longest tenured player on the club after being drafted in 2011. When the trio of players have featured in the starting lineup, the Black & Gold have secured at least a point in more than 75 percent of matches played dating back to August 10, 2013, recording a 19-10-12 record in that time. In total, the midfielders have earned five individual club awards during their time in Black & Gold, including three MVP’s: Barbasol Most Valuable Player (Federico Higuain – 2013 & 2014, Justin Meram – 2016); Crew SC Golden Boot (Federico Higuain – 2014); and Breakthrough Performance of the Year (Wil Trapp – 2013).

In 2016, Higuain appeared in 20 matches (18 starts) and scored four goals and added four assists. The midfielder scored the Black & Gold’s first goal of the season on a bicycle kick in the season opener at Portland. The Argentine playmaker also reached career milestones in 2016, including 500 corner kicks (now 514 total), leading the club’s all-time list, and 300 shots (now 309 total), fifth-most in club history. Higuain’s 39 goals in Black & Gold now rank him fifth all-time in club history.

Crew SC’s Designated Player and the 2012 MLS Newcomer of the Year was signed on July 27, 2012 and is set to return to Crew SC after five seasons. Higuain has made a total of 123 regular-season appearances (118 starts) in his time with the club and has scored 35 goals and has notched 39 assists in his Black & Gold and MLS career. Per Opta, Higuain has created 373 chances since his arrival to MLS, second most in the League in that time period, trailing only Javier Morales (387). Prior to his move to Columbus, the Argentine played the first half of the 2012 season with Colon de Santa Fe in Argentina.

Meram was named Crew SC’s 2016 Barbasol Most Valuable Player after scoring five goals and adding a career-high and club-leading 13 assists. The midfielder played in 33 matches (31 starts) for 2,605 minutes, a career-high in all three categories. Meram, a regular with the Iraq National Team, recorded a goal and four assists for Crew SC in the month of October alone, earning the MLS Etihad Airways Player of the Month honor, the first Crew SC player to win the award since 2013.

The Michigan-alum was selected 15th overall by Columbus in the First Round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft and has played six seasons with Crew SC. He ranks in the top-10 all-time for Crew SC in regular-season games played with 154, starting 102 of those. Meram has scored 24 goals and recently cracked the club’s top-10 all-time list in assists with 26. As a Michigan Wolverine, Meram scored 24 goals and recorded 14 assists in two seasons.

Homegrown Player Wil Trapp appeared for Columbus 30 times (29 starts) at central midfield and added one assist in the 2016 regular-season. Despite not appearing in four matches, Trapp had the second most passes (1,951), successful passes (1,718) and ranked second in passing accuracy (88.06%, minimum of 100 passes) in the League in 2016. The 23-year-old was named to the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star gameday roster, becoming the first Homegrown Player in Crew SC history to receive the honor.

Trapp signed with Crew SC in December of 2012 and has played four seasons with the Black & Gold. Since making his professional debut on July 7, 2013, he has made 93 regular-season appearances (90 starts) and has consistently been one of the League’s top passers. In that span, the Ohio-native ranks fourth in passes (5,973), third in passes successful (5,126) and ninth in passing accuracy (87.28%, minimum of 999 passes) in MLS. Trapp has scored one career goal and has notched nine assists with Crew SC.