U.S. Futsal National Team head coach Keith Tozer has been a staple of professional indoor soccer for decades, and he reached another milestone during his long coaching run with the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Milwaukee Wave. He now has 700 victories to his name.
Professional indoor soccer carries more than its share of turnover from year to year. But one of the rare constants within the game has been Keith Tozer, the U.S. Futsal National Team head coach and longtime leader of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Milwaukee Wave.
Last Sunday, Tozer added another milestone to his already insurmountable coaching resume. He earned his 700th career victory (regular season and postseason combined) when the Wave defeated the Syracuse Silver Knights 26-10 on Sunday, Jan. 29.
“I’ve been extremely lucky over these years,” Tozer said. “I’ve not only been lucky to be in the sport, but to be under great ownership. At the end of the day, that’s all you ask for to be a successful coach – to give the coach the ability to get the players.”
But his ongoing success goes well beyond attaining the right personnel. Tozer has been in a beneficial position in that he has been the U.S. Futsal coach since 1996 and has intertwined certain elements into his indoor system.
“Becoming the National Team coach 16 years ago in futsal, the sport at the time was in its infancy in the world,” Tozer said. “That has changed dramatically. What I’ve done is I’ve sat with Javier Lozano from Spain, Pipoca from Brazil and other coaches, and I’ve tried to take the futsal into indoor and blend them together. The last 10 or 11 years, the system of play has been dramatically changed with the Wave. We have different runs and different patterns on how we defend and attack. And that’s keeping it fresh for me.”
Tozer began his coaching career with the Louisville Thunder of the American Indoor Soccer Association for the team’s inaugural 1984-85 season. The thought of becoming a coach had not come across Tozer’s mind, but before Pete Mahlock launched the Thunder, Mahlock brought in Tozer to help coach at a camp based at an indoor center that he owned.
Mahlock approached Tozer about coaching the Thunder, and Tozer immediately was thrust into that role, while also still contributing as a player.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Tozer admits. “I worked hard on my Xs and Os and was just learning, dealing with people, with contracts. I was 27 years old when I started coaching, and I was going up against [National Soccer Hall of Famer] Ron Newman, [former Wichita Wings head coach] Roy Turner and all of these top coaches and doing this by the seat of my pants. It was wild at the time. I made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve learned a lot over the years.”
Eventually Tozer found his way to Milwaukee, where he has been since 1992. Tozer credits his longevity to continually learning about the elements of the game, since it has changed quite a bit over the years.
“The physicality of the game has changed dramatically, as it has with all sports,” Tozer said. “Everything is bigger and faster and stronger. Tactically, the game has changed a lot. One of the big reasons that I’m still in the game is that I love to learn, and I love to coach.
“I think it takes, for most players, about three years to really understand the system of play,” Tozer said. “Back then, you would play 40-50 games a year. Now it’s 20-34. At the end of the day, the foundation of the game is soccer and triangles, support for the offense and defense. But you start introducing them to diagonal running, and in futsal it takes even more of that.”
The U.S. Futsal National Team has a big year in store as it prepares for the CONCACAF Futsal Championships from July 2-8 in Guatemala, with the hopes of qualifying for the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup from Nov. 2-18 in Thailand. Late last year, Tozer and the U.S. Futsal Team participated in the Grand Prix of Futsal in Brazil, and it was a chance for Tozer to see some younger players and what they could potentially bring to the National Team level.
“We did identify some people from that camp that we plan to move to the National Team program,” Tozer said. “We will mix them with guys like Byron Alvarez, who became a U.S. citizen, Machel Millwood and a bunch of other guys who are seasoned professionals in the MISL as we plan for Guatemala.”
As for Tozer’s continual milestones, the Wave head coach shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down. His Milwaukee team, along with the Baltimore Blast, continues to play championship-caliber soccer as he is looking to add to his five championships while coaching the Wave.
“I’m not planning to leave anytime soon – 1,000 is my bull’s-eye,” Tozer said.