FC TUCSON: 'Wet towel' provides intensity

2013-07-12T00:00:00Z 2013-07-12T00:11:02Z FC TUCSON: 'Wet towel' provides intensityDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

FC Tucson midfielder Eli Galbraith-Knapp says his all-time favorite band is Rise Against.

Spend a few matches watching the 21-year-old San Diegan and it's easy to see why he's a devotee of the Chicago punk/alternative band known for a hard-driving sound to go with equally hard-hitting, socially relevant lyrics.

Two lines from the group's popular song "Satellite" eloquently sum up his effort on the field: "Because we won't back down. We won't run and hide."

The man who sports a tattoo of the band's logo - a fist inside a heart that is encircled by two arrows - on the side of his torso brings that kind of intensity. And he brings it in every minute of almost every match.

Over FC Tucson's last two seasons, no other player has seen the field more than Galbraith-Knapp. He has made 28 appearances and has rarely been on the bench when something is on the line. Knapp is expected to start at defensive midfield Saturday, when FC Tucson takes on L.A. Misioneros FC at Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5.

"Eli is a phenomenal athlete, first of all, and he's got a tremendous engine," FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz said. "He works extremely hard. He's a very good defender. The emotion that he brings to this team is great. It kinda makes the team run a little bit. When the chips are down, you can always hear him saying 'C'mon' real loud."

Like all the other facets of his game, leadership is a quality Galbraith-Knapp is constantly trying to improve.

"I've always tried to be a leader on the field as much as I can," Galbraith-Knapp said. "The last couple years I've been working on my tone and my voice and trying to be as encouraging as possible."

A telling example of his leadership - and also a testament to his stamina - came earlier this season in one of club's most vital matches. On an extremely humid May 21 night in Texas, the defensive midfielder gave his all for 120 minutes as FC Tucson played even with a professional club, the San Antonio Scorpions, and then won on penalties in a second-round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match.

"When we were playing San Antonio, we gave him the role that he had to play right mid and basically mark their best player," Schantz said. "We slid him outside, and he was chasing this guy all over the park. Eventually, their team had to make an adjustment because that guy couldn't get the ball.

"Eli did such a good job that we moved him back into the midfield, and throughout the whole 120 minutes, he just chased everybody. He worked really hard. When the game was over, I walked over, and I gave him a hug. I kinda wrapped my arms around him and I felt like I was hugging a wet towel. This guy was just soaked head to toe. But his emotion and spirit was just so fantastic."

The "wet towel" is hoping to wrap up his college career with another excellent season at University of San Diego this fall - he's been All-West Coast Conference the last two years - and then get a chance to smother fellow professionals.

"Obviously, I'm hoping to get into the (MLS) draft in 2014," said Galbraith-Knapp, who has a team-leading four yellow cards in all competitions this year. "But until then it's just hard work, lots of practice - as much as I can do.

"I know that the opportunity will come (to play professionally). And I know that once I get into that environment, that that's where I'm going to thrive."

Up next

What: L.A. Misioneros FC at FC Tucson

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5

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