The Orlando City has announced that acquired midfielder Justin Meram in a trade with Columbus Crew SC, om Monday MLS clubs confirmed.
Meram joins Orlando in exchange for $1.05 million in allocation money plus an international roster spot. The money breakdown consists of $750,000 in targeted allocation money (TAM) and $300,000 in general allocation money (GAM).
The deal is the second major trade for Orlando this offseason, as manager Jason Kreis looks to rebuild his roster and get the Lions to the postseason for the first time. Earlier this month, Orlando acquired Sacha Kljestan from the New York Red Bulls for Tommy Redding, Carlos Rivas and $150,000 in TAM.
In Meram, they have acquired a player who has spent most of his career out wide but can also operate as a central playmaker.
“Justin is the ideal fit to round out our attacking group. He’s a proven contributor in our league who can both score and create goals,” Orlando general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “His one-v-one ability and versatility to operate in various roles will add another dimension to our attack.”
Meram had spent all of his seven professional seasons in Columbus. The last two campaigns have seen Meram enjoy particular success, scoring five goals and recording 13 assists in 2016, and then following that up with 13 goals and seven assists the following season.
All told, Meram has recorded 40 goals and 35 assists in 200 league and playoff appearances, and the Iraq international wrote on Instagram that it was not easy to leave the only club he’s ever played for.
“An emotional day for myself as I say goodbye to the club who drafted me, molded me into the person I am today and gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream as a professional for seven years,” he wrote.
“The fans have welcomed a Michigan man into Ohio as one of their own. My coaches have helped me raise my level on the field, and my teammates who I battled with every day at training and under the lights! Thank you Columbus. This was not easy for me by any means asking to move on but it was time. Time for me to be fearless and move on to the next chapter of my life with new challenges.
“Orlando City SC… I am so excited for this opportunity, your belief in me and I am ready to help this club achieve great things in the near future.”
As for Columbus, the move marks the second time in 10 days that the club has dealt away a major attacking piece, amid the uncertainty around the organization surrounding a potential relocation to Austin, Texas.
On Jan. 19, Crew SC shipped forward Ola Kamara to the LA Galaxy in exchange for $400,000 in allocation money — which could rise to $500,000 if Kamara hits certain incentives — as well as attacker Gyasi Zardes.
Meram had made his desire to be traded known during the offseason, and now Crew manager Gregg Berhalter has satisfied that aim while collecting an immense chunk of allocation money. The question now is: Are there targets lined up that he can spend the money on immediately, or will he have to wait until the summer transfer window opens in July?
The Portland Timbers were pursuing Meram earlier his winter, but ultimately pulled out of a bid last week, sources said, while offers from FC Dallas and two Eastern Conference teams were also rebuffed.