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Fan Treatment of Justin Meram Could Have Lasting Impact on Orlando City

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Comments by Justin Meram in a recent article about fan treatment could make the acquisition of players more difficult for the Lions.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Meram’s brief time playing for Orlando City was tumultuous to say the least. While he showed signs of what made him a coveted asset in MLS, his struggles scoring led to a downward spiral. As time progressed, the forward took a brief leave of absence — apparently not his idea — and eventually asked to be traded. In an interview with mlssoccer.com, Meram expressed an issue that could make signing players in the future more difficult.

A community is only as strong as its weakest link, so a minority of people causing trouble will reflect poorly on the entire group. This has been seen in companies, universities, and sports fan bases. Meram expressed many reasons for his desire to depart Orlando, including a feeling of alienation from the team. But his treatment from a portion of the Orlando City fan base certainly had an impact on his state of mind.

In the story, Meram talks about the wishes for death he received from Orlando City fans and how at times he felt afraid in Florida.

“It was tough for me because nobody believes you except maybe you and your family,” he said. “I won’t get into too much detail because this has kind of been in the past, but when people know your every move and send you messages, it kind of puts some fear in you, having to look over our shoulder and worry about that.”

While the majority of fans do not condone these extreme actions, it could make the acquisition of players more difficult in the future.

When players consider a move to a new team, they talk to others that have played for that club. Prior to joining Orlando City, defender Scott Sutter spoke with former Lion Adrian Winter, a friend from his time in Switzerland. Fortunately for the club, Winter was a fan favorite and only had positive things to say about the club, leading to Sutter’s decision to join.

The problem with Meram’s time in Orlando is that it could cause issues for the club in two ways. First, Meram’s troubles with the Orlando City fan base has been documented publicly, allowing for players from around the league to see what could be in store for them should they struggle. Secondly, Meram is a league veteran and has played with many players from around the league. One looking to make a change may speak with him and ultimately decide not to risk the potential trouble.

This issue is not unique to Orlando City, as fans often get carried away over social media, saying things they would never under any other circumstances. But Meram’s comments make clear that the negativity had a major effect on his time in Orlando. What separates this situation from most others is how public it has become due to the success Meram has had during his MLS career.

Soccer fans feel like they have a deep connection to the team by impacting the product on the field through their singing and chanting. While they can have a positive impact, Meram’s experience proves that the fans can also have a negative impact, influencing a player to seek departure and potentially cause future targets to shy away from joining the club.

While coaches and players state they don’t pay attention to what people post on social media, Meram’s comments prove that to not always be the case. Other factors contributed to Meram’s quick departure from the club, but the actions of fans could have a more lasting effect. Orlando City fans will be hoping the poor decisions by a few don’t negatively impact the whole.