Justin Meram is back home. Just six months after requesting and getting a trade out of Columbus Crew SC, the winger found his way back to Ohio as the Black & Gold reacquired him from Orlando City in exchange for $750,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and a 2019 international slot. This news was originally reported by FOX Soccer’s Stu Holden with the details of the deal being confirmed by MLSSoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal.
The price is a discounted one considering the Lions had to hand Crew SC $750,000 in Targeted Allocation Money, $300,000 in General Allocation Money and the same international slot to grant Meram’s services back in January.
The lower price can be justified by the struggles the 29-year-old Iraqi international went through during his time in Florida, as he managed to play in just 17 games for Orlando, the last one on July 7, getting just one goal and three assists so far in 2018.
His poor performances made of him a target to Orlando’s supporters and he was recently granted a three-day leave of absence by new head coach James O’Connor due to “personal reasons.” He was not part of the team’s game day roster in any of the last three matches.
Meram was signed by the Floridians after he had a career year for Crew SC in 2017, the team he had been playing since being selected 15th overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, scoring 13 goals and registering seven assists in 34 games. Overall, he initially played for the Crew from 2011 to 2017, getting 188 matches (134 starts), 37 goals and 33 assists.
In Columbus, the hope is that Meram can benefit from his familiarity with the team, the city and Gregg Berhalter’s coaching staff to regain the form he displayed last season. If that’s the case, he should be inserted at the left wing spot.
In good shape, the Michigan-native could be a much-welcomed addition to the team as he has the talent to improve the team’s offensive production coming from the wings as Pedro Santos, Niko Hansen, Cristian Martinez and Mike Grella have all had limited success so far in 2018, scoring just two goals and registering nine assists so far this season.
To get Meram back, Crew SC reportedly outbid the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers as both teams were also interested in the winger. FC Cincinnati was previously considered a potential destination for Meram, but the team, which will debut in MLS in 2019, has since denied being involved in a deal for the winger.
An interesting point about Meram’s return is that he will have to select a new jersey number to wear as he rejoins the team. Following last season, Pedro Santos, who originally wore No. 32, switched to No. 9, the number Meram used from 2011 to 2017.
New number or not, Meram is back in Columbus after a disappointing move elsewhere. While he did ask for the trade away, it’s likely the winger has learned the grass is not always greener and a Justin Meram who is motivated to prove he’s still got the ability to be one of the best wingers in MLS is a scary thing for opposing defenses.