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Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Lucas Spiegel and Onesime Muepu traveled to Paris, France for a 2 week European Tour. The 2 players trained with Professional French Club Red Star FC, a pro club at the top of the French 3rd division who are on track to move up to Ligue 2 next year. The Parisien Club is the fourth oldest club in the country, celebrating over 100 years playing in Ligue 1, 2 and the 3rd division. 

The 2 Grove United players were selected based on their performances over the 2023 season in the NPSL, UPSL, and USL Academy. 

At only 16 years old,  Richmond homegrown talent Lucas Spiegel was a regular in the Grove United first team, starting in the center-midfield role alongside top college players and contributing significantly as a link player between the lines. 

Onesime Muepe, former U17 national team player with Democratic Republic of Congo, was Grove United’s playmaker and top goal scorer this year with 19 goals across all competitions. His balance, vision, speed, and ability to threaten opposition defenses relentlessly were a driving force behind the teams’ success.

Lucas and Onesime experienced a highly demanding training environment, and the speed of play, technical standard, and physical demands were of the highest degree. Their ability to quickly adapt and excel showed their readiness for the challenge. 

“It was a next-level environment. The technical quality, speed of play, and intensity is what you would expect from a top European environment. Our players had to quickly adapt. They grew throughout the training period and not only adapted, but showed well and impressed. The boys’ ability to make adjustments and impress is a testament to their playing level and intelligence and to the work that they have put in throughout this year at Grove United,” said president and technical director Justin Grove.

"The high technical and physical training level of Grove United sessions prepared us to directly adapt to Red Star training," said Onesime Muepu.

The language barrier also added another component for Lucas to adjust to. “The training was difficult for me because all of the coaches and players were speaking in another language. Many of the activities we do at Grove United are similar to what I saw training in France so that made it easier to follow directions even without knowing French,” said Lucas Spiegel. 

One of the main objectives at Grove United is to provide top players with the opportunity to showcase their ability, both domestically and abroad. This was an opportunity to not only grow from the soccer experience, but also an opportunity to be evaluated by the Red Star FC staff. 

“We received invaluable feedback from the coaches on both players. This feedback will also help Grove United staff to pinpoint areas to improve the player development model and enable us to continue to push players to new heights,” stated Grove.

The trip also focused on expanding the players' cultural and football perspective. In their downtime, the players enjoyed tourist attractions and cultural excursions, visiting Paris’ main sites. They took a trip up the Eiffel Tower and visited the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysee, The Louvre, and The Sacre Coeur.

“Although the soccer experience was the main objective, it is important for players to grow as individuals, to experience new things, and to see other potential pathways abroad, and we have started to implement these possibilities,” said Grove.

Observing live competitive matches at all levels of French soccer gave the players a broad perspective of the level of French football and of their playing style in general. PSG vs Monaco at the Parc des Princes was a trip highlight, with 7 goals in the match and key performances from Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembele, and a Monaco goal from American striker Folarin Balogun.

The players also visited the PSG Training Center to watch the PSG U17s play Paris FC (Ligue 2) U17s. The technical quality and composure of the top young players in the country was impressive. 

“The players in France have really good technical ability and have very encouraging attitudes. I liked watching the French style of play and how much they enjoyed keeping the ball,” said Spiegel. 

The trip closed out with the exciting Red Star FC match vs Nimes. “Allez les Red Star!” could be heard throughout the stadium as a sold-out home crowd cheered Red Star FC to a 2-0 victory. 

Grove United will use the feedback from the experience to identify areas to focus on to better mimic the high-level French environment. Grove United will continue to offer these experiences to players that are ready for this level and continue to push players into challenging environments, as well as enhancing opportunities to showcase and grow as individuals within the team construct.  


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