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."
And 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."
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.
Davi provided updates on several other league topics, including: