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Viva la France! Charlotte 49ers' Spaulding jumps to pro soccer
Cary resident with 4th division Stade Briochin
Published Wednesday, February 14, 2018 4:47 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Former Charlotte 49ers midfielder Ryan Spaulding is learning a new language and culture with French fourth-division team Stade Briochin.

Ryan Spaulding’s soccer story has gone French.

A 19-year-old midfielder from Cary, Spaulding spent two seasons with the Charlotte 49ers, but while others returned to campus for the spring semester, he made his professional first team debut on Jan. 20 for Stade Briochin, a club in France’s fourth division. They’re second in National 2 Group D with 33 points.

“A very good friend/mentor named Dario Brose was very instrumental in making this happen,” Spaulding said in an email interview.  “He played at this club back in the glory days in 1991-1995 when the club was Ligue 2 in France.  He has a great relationship with the club still and was able to set up a trial period for me at the club and it was a great match immediately with coach Guillaume Allanou and the players.”

Spaulding started 12 of 32 appearances for the 49ers, scoring three goals and tallying two assists. His studies concentrated on communication, but have been tabled in pursuit of professional aspirations.  

“The thought process I went through while deciding whether to stay or go was to look at where I could be in the next two years,” Spaulding said. “If I stayed at Charlotte I’d be just like every other senior in the country trying to go to the MLS, having only played about eight months of competitive college season in two years because of how NCAA soccer works.  We were only allowed minimal spring practice with the ball and only five or so decently competitive games.  I then compared that to the possibility of being 21 with two years of first-team experience in France, learning the language and lifestyle of a professional athlete with massive clubs like Stade Rennais and EA Guingamp right next door.  Being in season 10 months out of the year, playing league and cup games every week it was clear to me which one would help me achieve my dreams.”

Spaulding, who is not fluent in French, attends language classes twice a week to cope with that barrier.

“I have been working hard to learn the language since about mid-November, I have seen some big improvements with it since mid-January when I got here,” he said. “On the field there are no problems, my coach speaks a great amount of English, and a couple of my teammates speak enough English to have a broken conversation. I would say that ordering food in my French is probably my specialty, and then it gets harder with conversations where a person could be saying anything.”

On the pitch, Spaulding is still utilized on the wing.

“I am playing the same positions I have in the past, either left midfield or right midfield,” he said. “So I still have to get up and down the field and work on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.  We play a very composed style of football we enjoy keeping the ball, but when we do attack we go fast and deadly.”

Spaulding’s debut came against Boulogne Billancourt, which Stade Briochin won 3-1. Spaulding was tackled in the box late in the match, which led to a penalty. His performance led to his inclusion in the quarterfinals of the Coupe de France tournament against second division RC Lens.

“The play leading up to it was I forced the right back on the other team to make a sloppy pass that was stolen by a center mid on our team, who sprung me on the counter attack,” Spaulding said. “I was then 1 v 1 against the center back and I took a touch to one side of him and ran on the other side and met the ball about 2 yards into the box with an outside of the left foot shot.  Immediately after I shot I was taken out by the covering center back, as I got up I realized the ball had deflected off the defender as he fouled me and the ball scored. However, it didn’t count because the ref blew the whistle for a penalty before the ball crossed the line. I did not take the following penalty because by the time I realized what was happening my teammate was already lining up for it, but the play created enough buzz for me that I was on the squad for the following French cup game against RC Lens a Ligue 2 team” in a 1-0 loss. 

While these are the early days of Spaulding’s professional career, his international experience dates back to his academy days with North Carolina F.C.  

“The Brazil trip was with my u16 NCFC academy team (formerly Capital Area Railhawks Academy),” he said. “We trained and stayed at a local academy called Desportivo, and played a range of teams, some as good as Fluminese. Germany was around the same age, this was also through Dario Brose, but that was me going on trial with a club called VFL Osnabruek, who is third division in Germany.  In that trip, I had the opportunity to play a game in front a scout from Bayern Munich and have an evaluation after the game.”

Spaulding’s experiences abroad have given him an appreciation for the technical and tactical emphasis in France.  

“As a whole, French soccer utilizes the technical and tactical side of the game much better than the NCAA, which as a whole is very focused on the physical side,” Spaulding said.  “I think that going from Charlotte to this French style was a better transition that it would’ve been if I were at a different school because Charlotte had a very strong focus on offensive and defensive tactics.” 

Spaulding’s end game is top division play and country representation.

“I want to reach the highest levels of world football, whether it’s here in France or another country,” Spaulding said. “I also want the opportunity to represent my country on a big stage like the Olympics or World Cup.” 

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