Add another moment to the Justin Meram highlight reel for Columbus Crew SC.
Eight days after returning to the Black & Gold, the Mesopotamian Lion arrived to a roar of eager fans anxious to witness the midfielder’s entrance at MAPFRE Stadium during Crew SC’s 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 11.
For Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, Meram’s appearance served as a healthy reminder of what he brings to the table.
“I said, ‘You know why you’re here, you know why we brought you back,’ and he knows why he’s an important part of the team, and he showed it,” Berhalter said.
Meram came on as a 60th-minute substitution for midfielder Mike Grella, who started on the left side. In 30 minutes of action, Meram totaled 22 touches, including one chance created on 16 total passes for an 81.3 percent passing accuracy.
“When I’m on the sideline watching it, it was a pleasure, because I saw the danger again,” Berhalter said. “I saw the ability to make passes, to take guys on. We’ve missed that a little, and it was really good to see.”
Fellow midfielder and captain Wil Trapp took notice of Meram’s contributions immediately, noting the classic traits Crew SC have come to witness from No. 9.
“You see the dynamism he brings to the team,” Trapp said. “Whether it’s his change of pace, his little clever tricks and flicks, or passes behind the line…You can see the joy that comes out of him, we’re happy to have him.”
As Meram approached the fourth official, ready to be subbed on, the emotional uprising reverberated throughout MAPFRE Stadium.
“First of all, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all of the fans,” Meram said following Saturday’s win. “Leading up to the game during warmups, the tifos, when I subbed in and stepped onto the field, it was emotional for me and my family. So thankful, and words cannot describe the feeling that I have when they cheered and erupted when I stepped on the pitch.”
As with any position, communication and feel are key. Despite returning to a Black & Gold side with a few fresh faces, Meram, in his words, felt that the transition was smooth.
“Honestly, I mean you guys saw the game, transition was pretty seamless,” Meram said.
With a number of staples out there, returning to MAPFRE Stadium felt like more of a return from break than a reunion, according to Meram.
“Honestly, once I got my first couple touches, I will be honest, it all felt pretty natural being back in my element; a lot of the guys I know how to play with and combine with, and we created some dangerous chances early on,” Meram said.
As winners of three straight, Columbus looks to take the momentum on the road come Sunday as Crew SC heads to Atlanta, Ga. for a 4 p.m. kickoff against Atlanta United FC at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.