Watching Justin Meram in Crew SC’s match versus LA Galaxy on Saturday night, it was hard to believe the midfielder had traveled across the globe only the day before.
Meram was as aggressive as ever in the Black & Gold’s 1-1 draw with Los Angeles, pacing down the left wing, winning crucial tackles in midfield and firing off five shots. One of his chances nearly gave Columbus the equalizer in the 51st, but Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo did well to push the header away.
Meram’s performance was the more impressive considering only two days earlier he had taken to the soccer pitch 6,559 miles away from Columbus, in Yokohama, Japan, for a friendly with the Iraq national team.
After traveling to Japan on Monday, Meram had played 55 minutes in the 4-0 loss to the Samurai Blue at 7 a.m. ET on Thursday before heading straight back to Columbus, where he arrived at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night. After a night’s rest and a massage at the EAS Training Facility at Obetz on Saturday, Meram played the full 90 minutes against LA.
“He told me he was ready to go, and I trusted him,” Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match. “I think that he showed why he was so confident; he was really good. He never gave up, he kept going. You have to applaud a guy like that.”
Asked whether he had thought Berhalter would believe him, Meram joked,” No, not at all.”
“I spoke to him and whenever you get the call from the big guy you don’t know what he’s going to say,” Meram said. “But I’m glad he believed in me and I’m glad I could help the team out tonight.”
Meram personified Crew SC’s second-half energy and aggressiveness. After a sluggish start to the storm-delayed match, the Black & Gold trailed early following a 14th-minute goal by LA midfielder Sebastian Lletget.
But Meram and company clawed their way back into the match after the break, recording 63.1% possession and a total of eight shots in the second half. The result: a well-deserved draw thanks to a 66th-minute equalizer by Federico Higuain.
“In the second half it opened up,” Meram said. “I had a couple of great chances, Kei and Pipa. We were there, we were knocking and we took it to them in the second half. I think we could have pulled a win out of this one.”
Despite not coming away with three points, Meram said the match was a step in the right direction.
“It always helps, when you are down a goal, that you know you can come back,” he said. “It’s good to get this one, to come back from a deficit.”