New England Revolution

Ryan Spaulding on his unusual path from France to MLS with New England Revolution

Chris Smith
Spaulding didn't follow the conventional route into MLS.
Spaulding didn't follow the conventional route into MLS. / Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer to Europe is the dream path for most American soccer players but for Ryan Spaulding, it was time spent across the Atlantic that kick-started a career back in the United States.

After two seasons at college level with UNC Charlotte in North Carolina, Spaulding took a huge gamble by joining French fourth-tier side Stade Briochin back in January 2018.

Now back stateside, Spaulding has signed a senior contract with the New England Revolution - moving up from NE Revs II - and just this weekend made his first start for the club. Safe to say, it was a gamble that paid off.

"I’d always had this idea that I didn’t want to go through that normal college route. I saw how the game was played and felt like the way I play and the style I have, going to a European team and grinding out there would be great for my development," Spaulding told 90min in an exclusive interview.

"So I had that mentality already going into college, and then once I was there and did my two years, I had this opportunity to go to France. When I got that, it was almost a no-brainer because I felt like this was what I had to do, what I’ve been wanting to do my entire life. So I made that leap when I got the opportunity."

Even just landing in a small town in the north-west of France, Spaulding quickly learned just how much more ingrained soccer is in Europe. Naturally, this placed his performances under much bigger scrutiny, knowing he'd have to face the fans in the streets after every game.

"It was an incredible experience," Spaulding recalled. "First of all, the soccer culture there. Every person you talk to on the street, everyone is a fan of that local club. Everyone bleeds it, it’s their life. So when you’re surrounded by that on a daily basis, it makes you want to do great things for the club, to make them be successful for all these fans that just love it so much."

Even at just 23 years old, Spaulding is already in the unique position of having European, USL, and MLS experience under his belt already. Though he would come across Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 players in France, Spaulding described MLS as 'another level' - one he couldn't help but doubt he'd reach at certain points in his career.

"There have been a few stages, even when I was in France, where it was tough. You try not to second-guess yourself and let that doubt creep in, but it does happen sometimes," the defender said.

"For me, just having the right people behind me, my family have been super supportive, my best friend. It’s not even that they’re motivating you, they just put you at ease.

"You have to think like, this may not currently be my time and my moment, but I’m just going to keep working. This is what I’ve been working at my entire life, I’m going to keep going. I trust in myself and the process, I’m going to continue to grow each day.

"It seemed to work out and get me here. This has always been the end goal. This is where I’ve dreamed of being for my entire life."

Now that he is here, what can Revs fans expect? Well, in his one start so far, Spaulding was fouled more times than anyone else on the pitch (4), attempted two crosses, and tried his luck with a shot. Hardly surprising given he started out in the game as a winger.

But the player himself actually believes he's at his best when trying to stop opposition attacks.

"I like to think that my defending is a strong suit, which is interesting because growing up, I was always an attacking player, a winger," Spaulding responded when asked what Revs fans could expect from him.

"I didn’t make the transition to outside-back until I got to New England two years ago. I had a lot of help from the Revolution II staff especially, they were able to mold me into a solid outside-back and from there, I’ve just been able to grow and tweak things to get ready for this next level. 

"I think the way this first-team plays, they ask a lot of the outside-backs. We’re getting up and down the wing, involved in the attack, making plays happen. But they also expect us to get back and defend hard for one another. I think they can expect all that from me, it suits my game on both sides."

Spaulding says he's already 'learned a ton' from legendary Revs head coach Bruce Arena, and it'll ultimately be him that he needs to impress so that this 'dream' remains a long-term reality.

But right now, with only one senior match under his belt, Spaulding is just focused on the here and now, proving he can cut it MLS and be a trusted member of the team.

"My goal is to be fighting for a spot in the 18 every week. Starting or getting on the bench, just proving to the coaches that I have the ability to play at this level," he stated.

"I have DeJuan Jones in front of me who is an incredible outside-back. But you never know what’s going to happen, so if I need to slide into that starting spot then I want to show the coaches I can be at this level and thrive here on a consistent basis. Be a guy this team can rely on week after week."