Justin Meram
USA Today Sports Images

Newfound camaraderie keeps starting spots competitive

With Bernardo Anor suspended for at least one match for a wild tackle in Saturday's match against D.C. United, the Columbus Crew will need to find a replacement on the left wing.

And despite the opportunity for playing time presenting itself, there's no mad scramble to fill the spot on the Crew roster. Instead, the players are still echoing Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, who says that everyone will have a chance to battle for a starting role.

“It's exciting when you're contributing for the team and we're getting results,” winger Justin Meram, a frequent substitute but never a starter for the Crew in 2014. “With this coaching staff, it's tremendous how they've brought everyone in.

"In years past, if you weren't starting or dressing, you were super upset, but here there's a different outlook. They keep you in it and they keep you motivated, I think that's what’s great and why we've been successful from the beginning.”

Meram said the team's newfound camaraderie has helped galvanize the group, and said that players appreciate knowing where they stand under Berhalter.

“Everyone is helping each other get better and pushing each other,” Meram said. “We all know our chances will come at some point. In years past, you just didn't know what was happening, what was going on. It's all different, it's enjoyable. It's fun to come to work.”

After scoring a game-winner in Seattle and assisting on a Federico Higuain goal in the season opener in D.C., Meram is a logical choice to replace Anor in the lineup. But Berhalter isn't ready to name Meram – or anyone else – a starter just yet.

“You look at the week of training, look at the form guys are in, look at the position we need to fit, all those factors,” Berhalter said. “[Meram] is on the list, yeah. We have a couple alternatives that we can do, but he's certainly one of the candidates.”

And though he admits he'd love to be the starter, even Meram knows that his early season play hasn't guaranteed him a spot in the starting XI.

“I look it as 30 guys on this team who are all trying to start,” he said. “Everyone wants to play, I'm not the only one. Ethan [Finlay] is right there getting into games, Ben Speas is right there and Dominic Oduro played out wide. So you've got four of us for that spot.

“I've got to keep doing what I’m doing. I'm right there, pushing the coaches. But I can't be lackadaisical out there just because Bernardo's out.”

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