Sep 1, 2018; Columbus, OH, USA; A view of storm clouds prior to a game between New York City FC and the Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After what his teammates jokingly called a “six-month loan” to Orlando City SC, Justin Meram is back with Columbus Crew SC in full force. Facing a tough task against third place New York City FC, Crew SC came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory after a 63rd minute winner from Meram.
It was Meram’s first goal since returning to Columbus in just 170 minutes of game action. He also scored one goal in Orlando in 1,272 minutes.
“When he came back to training it was like he never left. Justin has a strong connection with this club, with the staff, with the players, it’s almost like the prodigal son was returning,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We saw glimpses in the Houston game, and now you see his quality and what he can do. He’s the kind of guy that can turn a game.”
After a scoreless first half, NYCFC (14-7-6) struck first in the 53rd minute when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi had the ball fall to his feet after a deflection. He didn’t hesitate and was able to score his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
Just seven minutes later, the Crew equalized on a distance strike from defender Harrison Afful. After his first attempt was blocked, Afful hit the ball again, blasting it past a diving Sean Johnson. It was Afful’s second goal of the season, making him the third highest scorer on the team. Only two minutes later, Meram gave Columbus a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The winner came from a Pedro Santos corner kick.
“I had some chances I really needed to put away,” Meram said, “it was a relief. Everybody here, all of you guys, the players, the city, welcomed me back. It’s nice to see and I’m just glad I could help. I do this for the city of Columbus.”
Crew SC also put in a strong defensive performance. Despite giving up the initial goal, they were able to hold NYCFC to three shots in the second half, and only one on target. NYCFC had seven shots on the game total, compared to 24 for Columbus with six on target.
“The backline put in everything they had. I didn’t have to do much,” goalkeeper Zack Steffen said, “Johnny [Mensah] and Lalas [Abubakar] were unstoppable tonight. It was great to have them out in front of me. They’re animals.”
The win keeps Columbus in fourth place in the East as they held off a charging Philadelphia Union. It also brings them within five points of third place. After the international break, Crew SC faces what Berhalter has called the toughest three-game travel week in MLS this season. The team will fly to Dallas for a game on September 15, then travel to Portland just four days later before coming home to face Colorado on the 22nd. All in all, Crew SC will log 5,514 miles of travel in just one week.