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Orlando City winger Justin Meram traded back to Columbus Crew

Apr 8, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City SC forward Justin Meram (9) during the second half at Orlando City Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Winger Justin Meram’s difficult run with Orlando City has ended.

Meram was traded back to Columbus Crew for $750,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) and a 2019 international slot, the club confirmed in a short press released Friday afternoon. The TAM is broken up into two years — $300,000 in 2018 TAM and $450,000 in 2019 TAM. 

The terms of the deal were first reported by MLSSoccer.com and confirmed by the Columbus Dispatch. Fox Sports analyst Stu Holden first reported Thursday night the two sides were close to a deal.

The Lions first acquired Meram from the Crew during the offseason for $750,000 of Targeted Allocation Money, $300,000 of General Allocation Money and a 2019 international roster spot. 

Orlando City essentially paid $300,000 of General Allocation Money for six months with Meram.

Meram finished 2017 with 13 goals and seven assists for Columbus, but he has just one goal and three assists through 17 matches played with Orlando this year.

He had a tumultuous relationship with Orlando fans. After scoring his lone goal in league play this season, his celebration in front of the home supporters section was to “tune them out,” putting his fingers in his ears. Later, the winger said fans wished death upon him and he was given three days leave from the team for personal reasons during the transition between former coach Jason Kreis and new coach James O’Connor.

“This has probably been the hardest four months, maybe, of my life, my career,” Meram said in an interview with Pro Soccer USA at the end of June. 

Meram missed Orlando City’s past five matches and often skipped multiple training sessions with the club. His last appearance with Orlando City was during a 4-1 loss at LAFC on July 7.

During his absence, FC Cincinnati and Columbus were among the teams that reportedly bid for Meram’s services. Throughout the obvious decline in their relationship, Orlando City officials made limited comments about Meram.

When asked about Meram’s status Wednesday, Orlando City general manager Niki Budalić told Pro Soccer USA, “We’re having a lot of conversations inside the league. It’s the same for a lot of our squad where there’s a lot of talk, but not necessarily something that’s imminent.”

Budalić said Meram missing training was an “internal matter that we wanted to deal with.”

Meram was already struggling by the time O’Connor was hired. O’Connor said he understood the interest in Meram’s absence, but he declined to discuss Meram’s chances of ever earning a spot in O’Connor’s game-day rotation.

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