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Orlando City winger Justin Meram happy to win, even without goals

Orlando City's Justin Meram hasn't scored his first goal of the season yet, but has been a key player during Orlando City's six-match win streak. (Jordan Culver-Orlando Sentinel)

Justin Meram isn’t too worried about his goal-scoring drought.

The mentality comes with years of MLS experience.

He’s taken 26 shots — five on target — and hasn’t found the back of the net. During Orlando City’s training sessions, he stays late to work on finishing. He’s not stressed about scoring his first goal, he’s in Orlando to win.

“I have many goals in my career and many assists, but I’ve never had six wins in a row, going for seven,” Meram said.

In that sense, Meram’s season has been a success, so far. He hasn’t scored, but he’s got three assists and likely would have had a fourth if Yoshi Yotún wasn’t brought down in the penalty area after Meram found the midfielder with a sensational backheel.

“My mentality is great,” Meram said. “I know maybe the supporters in Orlando are itching for me to get my first [goal]. As I’ve grown as a player, my mental strength is there. I don’t really let much criticism come into my job and really, I feel like I’m doing a lot of great things for this team leading to goals. I’ve always been a guy to create for a team and passing to make a teammate score. Sometimes I get more joy and I’ve had a lot of assists in my career.

“Yeah, of course, I want to get my first, but I came here to win. Winning is the most important thing and will always be the most important thing. If we can win an MLS Cup and I don’t score or I get one goal, I’m going to be the happiest man in Orlando.”

Plus, he’s taken on a leadership role with the club. He was the focal point of Orlando City’s attack early in the season when Dom Dwyer and Sacha Kljestan were out. When Orlando City changed formation from a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield to a 4-2-3-1, Meram was able to move to his more natural position on the left wing next to No. 10 Sacha Kljestan.

On the right side is rookie sensation Chris Mueller. Meram said he’s already taken on the task of advising the young winger. Mueller scored three goals in three matches, but hasn’t scored in two consecutive games.

“He understands the game pretty well at a young age – maybe quicker than I did,” Meram said about Mueller.

“There’s a couple of games where he hasn’t had many shots or many chances. Now, myself and Sacha are talking to him about ways to get open without the ball. With the ball, you see the quality, and now it’s movements without the ball to get him free to get those moments. When he gets those moments, he’s pretty clinical.”

Meram said he sees the similarities between himself and Mueller.

“He’s a fantastic guy off the field. I love being around him and talking to him about the game and picking his brain,” Meram said.

Meram has tried to keep the Lions’ six-match win streak in perspective.

“This winning streak won’t last forever, but… we’re level-headed through this,” he said. “If it comes to an end – hopefully it doesn’t – but if it ever does, the fall’s not too deep. We’ll be right back on the path. I think that’s what’s great about this team.”

Of course, he’s loved the support that has come with the club’s recent success, as well as the character the club has shown during its win streak. 

“Fantastic,” Meram said about Orlando City’s supporters. “They want a high standard. They express their opinions. I think it’s a great thing that they understand the game and want everyone to succeed and do well. I think this is the first time they’ve felt maybe some real success in a long stretch of time.

“We’re doing really good things here. We’ve brought a lot of good pieces. [Supporters] help us tremendously. How many times are we down a goal and they’re right there behind us leading us to victory. That speaks volumes. I can’t say I’ve had a crowd like this week-in and week-out.”

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