Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, striker Aaron Schoenfeld, midfielder Ben Speas, defender Chad Barson and midfielder Hector Jimenez check-in from preseason camp in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
Back in the States and jet-lagged from spending the past month and a half in Dubai and Australia with the Iraq National Team, Crew SC's Justin Meram joined MLSsoccer.com's ExtraTime Radio to chat about his experiences at the AFC Asian Cup in January.
Experiencing the love and adoration of the Iraqi fans in Australia left a lasting impression on Meram.
"It wasn’t playing just for me or the team," he told the ExtraTime Radio crew. "This was their lives. This was a chance to bring happiness to millions of kids and fans in Iraq watching us play. It was more than football. It’s a way of life for them. The support that they give us, I’m thinking today, next week, this whole year, how am I going to give back? How am I going to help out the country? How can I donate to bring 2,000 pairs of cleats for kids that are going to be the next players on the National Team?"
Listen to the entire interview on MLSsoccer.com.
Iraq concluded play in the AFC Asian Cup Friday morning, falling to the United Arab Emirates, 3-2, in the Third-Place Match of the tournament in Newcastle, Australia. Crew SC's Justin Meram came on in the 86th minute for the Lions of Mesopotamia. In total, Meram played 186 minutes for Iraq in the competition.
Upon returning to the States, Meram will be given rest by the Crew SC technical staff before reporting to the Black & Gold's preseason camp.
"He’s at a different level of fitness than the rest of the group right now," Berhalter said of Meram earlier in the week. "He’s been playing competitive games for the last month. I think the important thing now is to get him recovered, give him rest and join the team at a later date.
"We’re going to give him some time off, and we’ll see him when we think it’s appropriate."
Dreams were realized Wednesday evening in Rancagua, Chile as Gahanna native and Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp earned his first cap for the U.S. Men's National Team. Trapp played 31 minutes in the Americans' 3-2 loss to Chile, coming on for NYCFC midfielder Mix Diskerud in the 59th minute. Orlando City SC's Brek Shea and Toronto FC's Jozy Altidore found the net for the USA, but it wasn't enough to overcome Chilean goals from Mark Gonzalez (2) and Roberto Gutierrez.
The U.S. returns to play on February 8 against Panama at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.