Justin Meram is back with Columbus Crew SC. After what essentially amounted to Orlando City SC paying $300,000 to loan Meram for six months, the winger is back where he belongs in the black and gold in Central Ohio. Meram landed in Columbus around 9 a.m. on Friday morning and was out on the practice field shortly after.
We will get to what this return means for the team, for Meram, how he fits back in with the group and what he can provide for a team in the hunt for a playoff spot. But first to the real matter at hand: What number will Meram wear in his second stint with Crew SC?
From the time the Iraqi international was drafted by the Black & Gold 15th overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft to when he left the club in January for Orlando after requesting a trade, Meram always had the number nine on his back during his professional career. Even during his time in Florida, the winger wore nine. The problem is, once he left, that number became open and his fellowing winger, Pedro Santos, took it on.
When it was announced that Crew SC had traded to bring Meram back, social media exploded with questions and speculation about what number the Michigan native would wear.
It seems if Meram wants his old number nine back, he’s going to have to pay for it.
“I think there may be some type of process where you talk to a player about acquiring his number,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said on the matter. “That usually involves writing some type of check.”
Meram understands that’s, quite literally, the price you pay for requesting a trade and then ending up back with your old team.
“I’m fishing right now,” he said. “I’m doing some dirty work in the locker room. I’m definitely going to bring out my wallet to see if I can find a way... Are the banks closed today?”
According to the former Orlando City winger, he has two numbers in mind. It’s safe to assume one of them is his old number nine, but what is the other one?
“I’m not going to give it out there but we’ll see by the end of the day what we can get to,” he said.
For Crew SC fans, it would be strange to see Meram in the black and gold of Crew SC with something different than the number nine he wore for seven seasons in Columbus. At the same time, if Santos has become attached to he number in the last six months, it might be hard to pry it away from him. But Meram, who is reported to make $578,758 this year, seems likely willing to do what it takes to get it back.
Berhalter, though, wanted to make sure one thing was clear.
“What I would say is that number nine right now is Pedro’s number,” he said, “and Justin will be on the field with a different number and that’s how it is.”
As for what that number Meram will wear if he can’t work something out with Santos, we’ll have to wait and see.