COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Crew SC secured another week at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 home win over previously-unblemished Orlando City SC on Saturday, and they have one of the league’s hottest players to thank for the result.
Justin Meram had settled into a role as a provider as of late, dishing 13 assists last season to dwarf his five goals. But Meram – a striker in college – returned to his roots Saturday with a pair of strong finishes that gave him his first brace since September of 2014.
The strikes continue a personal hot streak that dates back to the end of 2016, and he has four goals and six assists in his last nine matches to go with a new contract he signed in March.
“He’s flying; he’s confident,” Crew SC captain Wil Trapp said of Meram. “He’s on another level when he’s confident. He’s been contributing in every single game this year. I think him signing that new deal and getting his footing underneath him and being able to move forward without anything [hanging] over his head has really been good.”
The winger had carved his own niche into the Crew SC style by cutting in from the left flank and creating for his teammates, but Meram said he misses the goals, which are still very much a part of his game.
“I’ve got to score goals,” he said. “I’ve got to play-make and I’ve got to score goals, and I think between those two and defending, that’s my role on this team.”
For Berhalter, Meram’s mix of skills make him invaluable, and the Columbus boss called his playmaker “a handful” for opponents.
“He’s very difficult to play against,” Berhalter said. “He has a good pass, good shot, good dribbling, he’s fast, so it’s very difficult to defend. Today is an example of how when you get him into space and you get him one-on-one, he’s dangerous.”
Meram said he’s trying to stay humble, and he believes that when he plays within himself, positive results will continue to come.
“When I stick to the gameplan, I’m pretty successful,” he said. “When I sometimes complicate it and try to go on my own, it’s not as productive. So I just try to stay within the system and my ability and everything will take care of itself.”