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NPSL: New coach for Bavarians

01/29/2013, 11:47pm CST
By ERIC ANDERSON

The Milwaukee Bavarians will have a new face on the sidelines – and most likely a little older look on the field for the 2013 National Premier Soccer League season.

Craig Peltonen, the longtime men's coach at NCAA Division III program Marian University in Fond du Lac, recently was named the Bavarians' new coach.

Andreas Davi, who led the side to a 20-14-3 record over the past three seasons, is now the team administrator and has added several new roles within the league.

In addition to 25 years at Marian and a stint as an assistant at UW-Milwaukee, Peltonen also has coached in the USL Premier Development League (with the defunct Wisconsin Rebels) and the men's amateur state Major League (with the Milwaukee Kickers).

"I don't see much of a transition at all," he said last week. "With the exception that I get to work with a little different player than maybe we have at Marian, because you're going to be working with players that are playing Division I for the most part. ... It's something I've done before, I just haven't done it in the last few years."

Craig PeltonenAnd Peltonen, left, plans to bring back an idea the Bavarians tried a few years ago: Adding a few veteran players to the roster to help set the tone for what is primarily an Under-23 team. The NPSL doesn't have an age limit, but the Bavarians have opted to field an Under-23 side the past few seasons – their older adult players are on the Major and Reserve teams.

"I would like to have a couple veterans," Peltonen said. "I think not only from a coaching point of view am I going to try to help these U-23 players get better and develop, but I think guys on the field – a center defender who's a little older or a center midfielder who's a little older – can help these guys develop. So we may try to add that element to the team."

It turns out Peltonen has been doing a little research for his new role – unknowingly – over the past few years.

"I work with (Madison 56ers coach) Jim Launder in coaching education," he explained, "so I've always picked his brain a little bit about what the league is like and what they do and how he runs things – not necessarily foreseeing this happening, but just because I'm curious, I like to know what's going on."

The Bavarians were 8-4-0 in league play last year, finishing second behind the 56ers in the Midwest Region Central Conference and made their debut in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, falling to the PDL's Des Moines Menace 3-1 after extra time in a first-round match. They earned the Cup berth by claiming their first Midwest title in 2011.

Peltonen, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame last year, returned to Bavarian SC after four years at Elm Grove SC to continue working with Bob Spielmann. The former Milwaukee Marquette High School coach and UW-Milwaukee assistant was named coaching director at Bavarian SC last summer.

"We were just kind of trying to figure out what role I would take and he thought coaching the NPSL team might be a good role for me," said Peltonen, who played college soccer at national power Indiana. "I'm an old Bavarian: When I first moved to Milwaukee many, many years ago, that was the first club I played for. I started coaching there with a U-19 team ... I bleed Bavarian blue, so it's kind of like going home."

Davi tackles new roles

In addition to his role with the Bavarians, Davi was named to three NPSL posts at the league's Annual General Meeting earlier this month in Indianapolis: He's now the Midwest Region commissioner, the chairman of the NPSL Disciplinary and Rules Committee and a member of the league's Board of Directors.

Getting teams across the league – and especially in the Midwest Central – to consistently follow regulations is of particular interest to Davi, a native of Germany who came up through the Bayer Leverkusen club.

He's frequently expressed frustration over conditions his teams and others have faced during away matches, including the lack of available locker rooms, trainers and water, or following the league guidelines concerning scheduling.

"That just can't happen," Davi said of such events. "Those are the things that drive me crazy, me as a stubborn German, where everything is organized, everything has a place. ... (Teams) all say, 'We all want to play soccer.' Yes, but you know what? You expect when you play that everything is in order so that you can compete on the highest level."

Davi said the league has approved docking teams points rather than assessing fines for violations. "There are some teams, you can't punish them with money. But taking points away, that really hurts," he said.

National Premier Soccer LeagueMore NPSL news and notes

Davi provided updates on several other league topics, including:

  • The NPSL has requested eight berths in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, up from the 6.5 the league received in 2012. If that request is honored by the U.S. Soccer Federation's Open Cup committee, each region would be awarded two berths in this year's 100th tournament. Under that scenario, the two finalists from last year's Midwest final, the 56ers and AFC Cleveland, would receive the berths, Davi said. If the Midwest receives only one berth, it would go to the 56ers, who won the Midwest final 2-1 last July. An announcement from the USSF finalizing the breakdown of qualifiers is expected within the next few weeks. First-round Open Cup matches are scheduled for May 14, according to a tentative schedule posted on the U.S. Adult Soccer Association Region II website.
  • The Central Conference once again will consist of five teams: the Bavarians, 56ers, Eau Claire Aris FC, St. Paul Twin Stars and Quad City Eagles. Like last season, they will play each other three times for a 12-game conference schedule, with the "doubles" reversed from 2012 – the Bavarians will play host to both the 56ers and Eagles twice this year after playing those teams twice on the road a year ago. Davi hopes to have the 2013 schedule completed by Feb. 15.
  • Eau Claire Aris will play some of their home matches in La Crosse. Club founderGreg Saliaras recently was named the men's coach at NAIA school Viterbo University in La Crosse after serving in that role for the V-Hawks on an interim basis last fall.
  • The Chicago Fire, who were on hiatus last season after entering a team in the league for five years, are officially out of the league. Davi is optimistic the Central can add two more teams, perhaps as early as 2014, but that is the maximum size for the conference if teams continue to play each other at least twice per season.
  • The other half of the Midwest Region, the Great Lakes Conference, has six teams this season. FC Sparta Michigan in Berkley, Mich., and Ohio's Zanesville Athletic FC joined the second-year conference, while New York's Greater Binghamton FC was moved to the Northeast Region's Keystone Conference. However, New York club FC Buffalo and Pennsylvania's Erie Admirals remain in the Great Lakes.
  • The winners of the two Midwest conferences will meet for the regional championship, with this year's match being hosted by the Central winner – AFC Cleveland played host to last season's final.
  • While there will continue to be an NPSL Final Four, including the champions of the Midwest, Northeast, South and West regions, it won't be at one location. The four finalists will be seeded based on points per game, with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds playing host to semifinals and the top remaining seed hosting the ninth NPSL final.
  • Nineteen new clubs have joined the NPSL, taking the league to a whopping 61 teams for 2013. Only four of the 13 teams that played in the inaugural 2005 season remain: the Midwest trio of the Bavarians, 56ers and Twin Stars and the Sonoma County Sol from the West. The latter three clubs have played every season; the Bavarians didn't field a team in 2009.
  • The NPSL once again is a non-profit organization, and is seeking a new commissioner as Dan Trainor stepped down after serving in that role for the league's first eight years. The entrance fee to join the league is $11,500, which can be paid over three years, while the annual league fee is $3,500 per team.

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