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Orlando City Sends Justin Meram Back to the Columbus Crew

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Justin Meram is headed back to his former club.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Orlando City vs Miami United Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Meram’s time with Orlando City is over. Sam Stejskal wrote last night that the Lions had agreed to terms with Columbus Crew SC to send the Iraqi international back to his former club and that has now happened.

As Stejskal’s story on mlssoccer.com stated, the Crew will send Orlando City $750,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) as well as a 2019 international slot in exchange for Meram and he will be available on Aug. 11 for Columbus against the Houston Dynamo. The club announced the breakdown of the TAM — $300,000 in 2018 TAM and $450,000 in 2019 TAM.

The club’s release on Meram was very brief and didn’t include the obligatory quote expressing well wishes.

FOX Soccer analyst Stu Holden teased the news before Sam Stejskal’s story was published.

Meram was acquired by the Lions in January for $1.05 million dollars in TAM and an international roster slot. The veteran winger was brought to Orlando City to bring goals to the Lions but that never panned out. The 29-year-old midfielder struggled after a good opening night game, appearing in 17 matches (14 starts) for Orlando City. He scored only one goal on 11 shots on goal and added three assists over his time with the club in MLS play and scored a goal in the U.S. Open Cup against D.C. United.

In fairness, had his teammates finished, he could have had a few more assists but it’s also fair to say that neither Meram nor the club were happy with his production in 2018.

The choice to move the midfielder has been teased for weeks as he has been absent from training and left the club for “personal reasons” just before James O’Connor was announced as the new head coach. Meram has also been out of the 18 in Orlando City’s last five matches across all competitions. He returned to training with the team this week as it appeared that the trade efforts had fallen through, but was absent this morning as the deal was completed.

What it Means

Orlando City may now have the necessary resources to add some missing pieces before the transfer window closes. The Lions essentially rented Meram for half the season for $300,000 in allocation money, plus his salary from March up until the trade became official.

The Crew get back a player who had a career year just one season ago, when Meram scored 13 goals and assisted on seven others. In his seven seasons in Columbus, Meram scored 37 goals with 33 assists in 188 games.

Meram’s struggles this season were puzzling, especially after his performance on opening night. The more he pressed to get back on track, it seemed, the more his performances suffered for it. It may have gotten to him mentally and he spoke about some of his issues during his difficult season back in late June.

In the end, this trade should help both clubs and Meram, but the Lions obviously lost out on the original deal by concluding the business with nothing more than an expensive rental. Meram also may still need to deal with the circumstances he was trying to avoid when he looked to move from Columbus — the club’s potential move to Austin after the 2018 season.


The Lions and Crew will meet again this season — on Oct. 21 at Orlando City Stadium — so Meram will return to central Florida before the season’s end.