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Meram back with Crew for match against Dynamo

Columbus Crew SC, with midfielder Justin Meram back in the mix, goes for a third straight win against the fatigued Houston Dynamo on Saturday.

Meram, one of five players to register at least 30 career goals and assists for the Crew, was dealt to Orlando City SC on January 29. He was reacquired via a trade on Aug. 3 and could make his return to the lineup vs. the Dynamo (7-9-6, 27 points) at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus.

For Meram, it's a welcome reunion after scoring once and adding three assists in 17 games for Orlando City.

During his time with the Crew from 2011 to 2017, he rose to sixth in goals (37) and seventh in assists (33) on the franchise list. He had 13 goals and seven assists in 34 games last season for Columbus.

Because the Crew (10-7-6, 36 points) did not play last weekend, Meram was able to jump right into a full week of practice with his "new" team like it was old times.

"I think here, there is a philosophy, tactics, and everything comes together when you get on that pitch," he said.

The Crew have lacked production from their wing players since trading Meram. Forward Gyasi Zardes has 13 goals and midfielder Federico Higuain four, but no one else has more than one. Columbus is 20th in MLS with 30 goals.

"He's fitting in seamlessly," coach Gregg Berhalter said of Meram. "A lot of the concepts, the ideas he understands and grasps."

While the Crew rested, the Dynamo played and played. Saturday will be their third match in eight days, including defeating Los Angeles FC 7-6 on penalty kicks after a 3-3 tie through 120 minutes in a semifinal of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.

Houston hosts the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 26 in the Open Cup final.

It was a welcome outcome for the Dynamo after three consecutive losses in MLS play. They are 0-3-2 in the past five league matches to drop to 10th in the Western Conference.

"I told the guys we have a very short celebration because after we finish in 10 minutes we need to start thinking about the Columbus Crew and the game on Saturday," Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera said after the match.

What has him worried as much as tired legs is not having three players available against the Crew because of red cards to Alejandro Fuenmayor, Darwin Ceren and Alberth Elis during the 1-0 home loss to Sporting Kansas City last Saturday.

Cabrera was also ejected at halftime because of "inappropriate conduct in the tunnel" and will not be on the sideline. Assistant coach Michael Dellorusso is expected to be in charge.

No matter who is on the field, the Dynamo know it's time to make a move upward. They are seven points behind Real Salt Lake for the final playoff spot with 12 matches left.

"We've kind of dug ourselves a hole," goalkeeper Joe Willis said. "We have a lot of work to do."

Updated August 9, 2018

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