When it comes to Bavarian SC and the US Open Cup, it’s more of a case of catching up with the Milwaukee club rather than meeting the team.
Bavarian SC is making its sixth appearance in the tournament during the Professional Era, a record for amateur teams in that span. In those five previous trips, they’ve won three matches and advanced to the third round in 2003. And before that, the club advanced to the final in 1994 — the last year before professional teams joined the tournament — before falling to San Francisco’s Greek-Americans.
So why has Bavarian SC been such a fixture in the US Open Cup?
“I think it’s a little bit of history and a little bit of player selection, too,” said Tom Zaiss, the club’s director of soccer operations. “We’ve always had a good mix of young and old, and I think that’s what, in this tournament, separates us from most.
“You can do well with a good, young PDL team as well, but I think in those squads they always lack a little bit of experience. And I think if you’re an older ethnic team, you might struggle because you don’t have the younger legs. We have a good mix of both.”
Zaiss, who played on Bavarian’s 1994 team and coached the 2003 side, said this year’s team is one of the youngest the club has fielded. Two local players who starred at UW-Milwaukee before going on to professional careers — Kyle Zenoni and Neil Dombrowski, both 25 — have returned to the area and have been standouts in the midfield.
“Kyle brings a lot of experience,” Zaiss said of Zenoni, who played in Sweden and Bolivia and also spent a season with the Minnesota Thunder in the USL First Division. “He’s played overseas for a long time in a lot of different countries, and adding kyle has definitely been a huge addition for us.”
Zenoni had two goals as Bavarian scored three times in the second half to beat the Iowa Menace in a USASA Region II semifinal on May 23 in Milwaukee to claim the US Open Cup berth.
Dombrowski, meanwhile, played for Rochester and Portland in USL1 and is part of the “first family” of the US Open Cup — this will be the ninth straight year a member of his family has played in the tournament.
His older brother Scott is his teammate with Bavarian, while younger brother Zeke figures to be in the lineup Tuesday when the Wilmington Hammerheads play host to the Charlotte Eagles in an all-USL2 matchup in the first round.
On the other end of the spectrum is Giovanni “John” Luna. He played his first match for the Bavarian Majors, as the team is referred to internally, back in 1988 and played in the 1994 US Open Cup final with Zaiss.
“He’s the elder statesman of the group, he’s obviously in the twilight of his career,” Zaiss said. “But we still have those guys that have been around for a long time. We’ve got us guys who were with us when we beat Des Moines (Menace of the PDL) in overtime (in 2003) … so we have guys who have been there, done that and can help the young guys out.”
Bavarian SC played Sunday in the Wisconsin Adult Soccer Association Major League — they remained unbeaten and atop the league standings — but six players missed the game to attend backup goalkeeper Eric Mickschl’s wedding. “So they’re all well-rested,” Zaiss said.
Zaiss said that Mickschl will miss Tuesday’s match at the Chicago Fire PDL in Bridgeview, Ill., as will several other players — including some starters — because the 5 p.m. CT kickoff time conflicts with their work schedules. But he’s still optimistic of Bavarian’s chances.
“I think that was a little bit of gamesmanship on Chicago’s side,” Zaiss said of the early kickoff. “They probably said, ’We’ve got a bunch of college guys, 5 p.m. on a Tuesday works for us.’ But we’ve got a lot of guys who work for a living, so it’s a little bit of a challenge. We lose a couple because of the kickoff time, and some of them would have started.
“Chicago will be trying to figure out who’s playing where, so I don’t want to give too much away, but I think we have a good group. Like I said, it’s a little bit younger than we’ve had, which is never bad, because from a fitness perspective, playing (Sunday) and then turning around and playing on Tuesday is always a challenge.”