Three appearances into his second stint at Columbus Crew SC, midfielder Justin Meram reflected on his first start for the Black & Gold since his return, the overall transition, and what has been paramount to his progression as Columbus approaches the final two months of the regular season.
“It was good,” Meram said. “Not much of a change for me, it was just (about) starting to build fitness every day and every week.”
Since Meram’s acquisition on Aug. 3, the midfielder, who leads the current Crew SC roster with 191 career appearances under the Black & Gold, has totaled 107 minutes in one start and two second-half substitutions.
Meram started in Crew SC’s 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire, completing 26 total passes on 33 touches in 57 minutes of match play.
For Meram, Columbus’ depth has allowed his integration to progress at the pace that’s best for the Club and player.
“I’m getting stronger physically and tactically, just being aware of being back in the system and how to play,” Meram said on his assessment following last week’s match.
Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter recognized that Meram’s path moving forward is, in essence, exactly that – a progression.
“I think the idea for us was to build Justin’s minutes,” Berhalter said. “We know that our success is going to be dependent on him getting back to his form. The plan was to start him in the Chicago game and let him go as long as he could and gradually build his minutes but we think he will be in position to help the team.”
Berhalter emphasized that leveraging Meram’s best attributes is what’s key, with physicality and fitness being a key component.
“The one thing I think is underrated with Justin is his physicality,” Berhalter said. “I mean he’s quick, he’s fast, he’s strong. So we want to take advantage of that and now it’s just about getting him in the right conditions where he can bring out those attributes because he is powerful.”
Following Thursday’s match, it was a second first-start for the Mesopotamian Lion, and as with anything, it’s about reflection and improvement.
“Overall, (my performance) was good, and I build off of the good moments and correct the moments I could do better.”
Crew SC returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 1 against New York City FC at MAPFRE Stadium, with kickoff slated for 8 p.m. ET.