Justin Meram, Gregg Berhalter - Columbus Crew SC - sideline greeting
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

After honoring Meram trade request, Berhalter begins work of replacing him

In less than 10 days, Columbus Crew SC have traded their two highest-scoring players in 2017 to league foes. The process of replacing them begins immediately.

The club announced Monday that it had dealt winger Justin Meram to Orlando City SC for a massive haul of funds, including $750,000 in Targeted Allocation Money and $300,000 in General Allocation Money along with a 2019 international roster spot.

The deal came just nine days after the club traded striker Ola Kamara to the LA Galaxy for Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.

In the 2017 season – which saw Columbus fall just short of hosting an MLS Cup final – Meram and Kamara accounted for 31 of the club’s 53 goals.

On a conference call Monday afternoon, head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter said the club will “look to be aggressive” on the transfer market with their allocation money, and promised acquisitions to make up for the recent losses.

“We’re going to use these resources to add both veteran experience and young potential players,” he said. “We think this will give us the ability to add two, potentially three players to our roster in hopes of making it better.”

Meram had requested a trade this offseason after playing his entire pro career in Columbus. But Berhalter had made it known Meram wouldn’t be allowed to leave for a small price.

“When I learned of his desires to play at another club, it wasn’t easy because of that connection,” he said. “But I also understood he’s been with the club for seven years. We were very upfront with him. I said, ‘Justin, you’re not going anywhere unless we get the appropriate value for you.’ And once we did that and it became a reality, it wasn’t easy.”

While Berhalter said Mike Grella, Cristian Martinez, Niko Hansen, Pedro Santos and Zardes are all candidates to replace Meram, the best fit for his role could also come from outside the current roster.

“We have some internal candidates that need to step up, that need to show they want the position, and they’ll be given the opportunity to do that,” he said. “On the same side, we’re looking for players on the international market or the domestic market that can come in and make an immediate impact and give us goal production and assist production. We know that’s vital after losing both Justin and Ola.”

Berhalter said ideally he’d like to get players into camp to prepare for the upcoming season. But the club is “not in a rush," he added, and a deal could have to wait “a month or so” for the right player.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Berhalter said. “When you look at it on paper, you see it’s not going to be easy. But we do think we’ve brought quality in that can help with that, and we’re going to add quality.”