With Eddie Gaven out, Jairo Arrieta away, is Justin Meram the man to step up?
OBETZ, Ohio – Justin Meram experienced highs and lows in one eventful week for the Columbus Crew, but he'll take both emotions. The reason? It means he's been given a chance to play.
The third-year midfielder/forward had just 31 minutes of first-team action through the first 10 matches but hopes to make his fourth straight start Wednesday when the Crew travel to Philadelphia (7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
"That shows the coach's confidence in me," Meram told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. "I've got to take it and prove him right."
He had the chance to possibly solidify his spot in the 74th minute of Saturday's 1-1 tie vs. Houston but failed to convert a rebound into an open net that would have put the Crew ahead (see video above).
"He should score the goal," coach Robert Warzycha said. "It's as simple as that. That's difficult to miss a chance like that in front. He has to be more mature."
The ball skidded to Meram after Federico Higuaín's long strike hit the right post. He found himself in front of the goal with plenty of space and time.
"If could take it back I would have taken a touch," Meram said. "It came so fast I tried to push it. I should have tapped it first."
The play capped a wild three games for him. It started May 26 at New York when he attempted to one-time a cross from Higuaín and mis-hit the ball before being shoved by Red Bulls defender Kosuke Kimura, who was flagged for a penalty that Higuaín converted in the 2-2 draw.
The call so incensed New York coach Mike Petke that he was later fined by MLS for his postgame comments.
Last Wednesday, Meram scored a wonderful 25-yarder to give the Crew a 2-1 win over Dayton Dutch Lions in the third round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. That was followed Saturday by him being tackled in the penalty area again vs. the Dynamo in the 13th minute – only this time there was no foul.
It's that type of aggressive play he hopes keeps him in the lineup because of the golden opportunity for his taking.
The Crew will be without midfielder Eddie Gaven after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Dayton match and forward Jairo Arrieta will miss the next two games to be with Costa Rica's national team.
"I should have capitalized [against Houston]," he said. "It would have been a step in the right direction for me. Now we've got to go to Philly so I've got to step up even more."