OBETZ, Ohio – Still in his first year of play with the Iraq national team, Justin Meram is adjusting quickly to life as an international athlete.
That jet-set lifestyle was put to the ultimate test over the weekend. Despite head coach Gregg Berhalter’s insistence that he would be available, most presumed that the Columbus Crew SC midfielder would be out for Saturday’s match against the LA Galaxy, which took place just days after a trip to Japan with Iraq.
The team played in Japan on Thursday around 7 am ET, and Meram started, played 55 minutes and returned to Columbus just more than 24 hours before the Galaxy match.
“Think about that,” Berhalter said, emphasizing the logistics involved to media after the match.
But Meram said he could play, and Berhalter agreed.
“We had a conversation, and he told me he was ready to go,” Berhalter said. “I trusted him. And I think he showed why he was so confident tonight. He was really good. He never gave up. He kept going. And you’ve got to applaud a guy like that.”
Meram played all 90 minutes in the match, which ended in a 1-1 draw. When asked if he believed Berhalter would start him, he said “not at all.”
“I spoke to him, and whenever you get the call from the big guy, you don’t know what he’s going to say,” Meram said. “But I’m glad he believed in me.”
Even after he was in the starting lineup, did Meram think he would last the full game?
- Find more Crew SC coverage at ColumbusCrewSC.com
“To be honest, I [told Berhalter] 65 or 70,” he laughed. “But my teammates and everyone and the coaches were just pushing me. It was one of those where sometimes when you’re sick or you’re feeling adversity, you push even harder. I feel like that’s what I had tonight, and I’ve got to keep doing that now when I’m rested.”
Meram is only months removed from having his sleep schedule annihilated while at the Asian Cup in Australia, and the midfielder says he’s come a long way in his adjustment to the rigors of international play and travel.
“It’s getting a little easier,” he said. “In my last trips, I had a really hard time sleeping when I would get back. It would take me a good five or six days. I was up every day at like three in the morning. But all the people behind the scenes are helping me out, making sure I’m doing the right things, taking the right nutrition and getting my body back.”