Justin Meram is heading back to the Columbus Crew less than a year after his departure to Orlando City. Can he make an impact upon his return?
The longtime Crew midfielder made 188 regular season appearances for the Ohio club but moved to Orlando City in January of 2018 in a trade that saw him head south for a total of $1.05 million in Target Allocation Money and an International Roster Spot.
This August trade will now see Orlando City gain $750,000 and an International Roster Spot.
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Meram has not had an easy go of it in Orlando. During July, the midfielder only made one appearance in MLS, and that was from off the bench. He was a regular in the starting XI at the start of the season but did not have the impact many thought he would when he joined the club. He managed to score only one goal in his 17 total appearances, which was a mark far from his previous campaign in 2017 when he scored nine goals through July.
During July, Meram took a three-day leave of absence rom the club due to personal reasons. There were even reports of fans shouting abuse at Meram during matches. The relationship between Orlando City and Meram had fallen apart. It took just six months.
As it stands, Meram will not be expected to have an instant impact for the Crew when he arrives. The midfielder is in different form from when he left the club and will have to contend for playing time with a midfield that has been doing decently well this season.
As a whole, the Crew have had a terrific season considering the news surrounding their possible move to Austin, Texas next season. They are fourth in the table and have an eight-point lead on fifth place Montreal entering this weekend.
Meram joins his old club during a key stretch of the season as they look to solidify their spot at the top of the Eastern Conference. Columbus have a decent chance of going far in the playoffs and a return to the semifinals in November will have to be their ultimate goal.
A substitute role may be what fits Meram the best as he is integrated back into the squad. Perhaps he will begin to find his form with his old club more quickly than he did in Orlando. If he does, it could be a deadly combo with Meram and Gyasi Zardes on the attack. That duo could produce a goal-scoring machine that is capable of making plays left and right.
For now, let’s hope Meram can refind his form at the club where it all started for the midfielder. If he does, the rest of MLS must be careful with the Crew.