Atlanta United acquired Justin Meram in a frugal trade with Columbus.
Atlanta United will send to Columbus $100,000 in General Allocation Money and its second-round pick in the 2020 SuperDraft. Meram is expected to join the team within the next three days. Atlanta United hosts Toronto on Wednesday and Orlando on Sunday.
“Justin is a proven commodity in MLS, and we’re pleased to welcome him to Atlanta,” Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement provided by the team. “During his time in Columbus, Justin established himself as one of the better attacking players in the league, and we expect him to come in and compete immediately.”
Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said Tuesday that the team was working on a deal because it expects to soon have to play without several notable attacking players, notably Josef Martinez.
Meram, 30, once was one of the better players in MLS, with 32 goals and 29 assists from 2014-17. However, he pushed for a trade to Orlando before the 2018 season, with $1.05 million in allocation money going to Columbus.
His career hasn’t been the same since.
Meram scored only one goal with three assists in 17 appearances with the Lions. He clashed with the team’s supporters, celebrating his lonely goal by running to the supporter’s section and sticking his fingers in his ear. He said he received death threats. He then clarified that some Orlando supporters had wished him death. He was asked to leave the team for a few days.
Meram was traded back to Columbus in early August and scored one goal with one assist in nine appearances with the Crew. He underwent surgery on his left ankle in the offseason. Not as fast as he once was, Meram has yet to score or have an assist in nine appearances this season.
Meram, who received more than $575,000 in guaranteed compensation last season, according to the MLS Players Association salary database, has 39 goals and 37 appearances in 223 appearances in MLS.
Meram has a reputation as being a good guy in a locker room. Character is something that Bocanegra stresses that is scrutinized when scouting players.
Meram is being acquired because Martinez (Venezuela) and Hector Villalba (Paraguay) are among the South American players that could be called up by their respective national teams for this summer’s Copa America. The team also will be without Ezequiel Barco for the next few weeks while he will be with Argentina’s U20 national team at the World Cup in Poland.
The Copa America will be held in Brazil. The tournament starts June 14 and concludes July 7. Atlanta United has four league games scheduled from June 7-July 11.
Atlanta United has one roster spot available.
Before Tuesday’s training session, Bocanegra walked onto the field and spoke with de Boer for several minutes. De Boer said the two frequently share information about players from their respective connections.
“We always keep ourselves up to date with each other,” de Boer said.
De Boer said he prefers a player that can directly fit in into the formation without a lot of training. He said they are looking for a player that can score goals, but also work with the ball between the defensive lines in tight spaces.
Martinez is tied for the team lead with four goals. Villalba has yet to score this season, but will likely get a stretch of games starting with Wednesday’s against Toronto while Barco is away.
Atlanta United also has striker Romario Williams and midfielders Dion Pereira and Andrew Carleton. Pereira and Carleton have yet to prove themselves in MLS with Atlanta United. Williams has one goal in MLS in 20 appearances.