President Obama honors Rapids in White House visit
WASHINGTON — A leaden sky full of low clouds made it a gray day in the national's capital, but the Colorado Rapids nonetheless got their moment in the sun on Monday as President Barack Obama warmly welcomed the team to the White House to congratulate them on their 2010 MLS Cup title.
Addressing an East Room audience populated by the team’s friends, family and media members as the Rapids stood behind him in matching team suits, Obama broke the ice with a joke about his own experiences as a “soccer parent” before praising “the best team in American soccer” for their gutsy run to the club’s first-ever championship.
“They may not be household names, but the great thing about sports is that in the end, that doesn’t really matter,” said the Commander-in-Chief. “What matters is how well a team can pull together when the chips are down, and that’s exactly what the Rapids did.
"This team had the second-worst record of any team in the playoffs last year, but they showed up in close games, they clawed back from behind, they just kept on winning and, when the clock ran out, the Rapids were the best team in American soccer.”
In well-crafted remarks that showed an impressive familiarity with the team and the league in general, Obama singled out several Rapids for their achievements on the field as well as in the community. He also noted the differences between MLS players and their flashier counterparts in other pro sports.
“While life in the MLS isn’t always fancy, it serves to bring players closer to each other and to their fans,” he said. “[Midfielder] Wells Thompson likes to take food from the stadium and give it to the homeless on a nearby street corner.
“If anybody wants a player to show up at a charity event or help out with a nonprofit, all they have to do is ask — these guys show up. More often than not, the Rapids staff only finds out about these visits after they happen. So these aren’t just good players, they’re also good people.”
Before meeting Obama, the Rapids were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the White House and afterward changed into training gear to conduct a soccer clinic for the children of military families. The experience was a moving one for the whole team, even in the wake of their humbling 4-1 road loss to the Columbus Crew the night before.
“I think for the players it’s been a wonderful distraction from the result,” said head coach Gary Smith. “[Sunday’s loss] was a little bit tough for me to swallow, that’s for sure, and it has taken most of the day to get over what happened last night. Nevertheless, it’s a day to remember and something to be extremely excited about.”
The squad also received their 2010 championship rings on Monday morning, just before heading to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, reminding the team of last year’s run to the title and making the occasion even more special.
“An awesome day today,” striker Conor Casey said. "When do you get a chance to come to the White House, meet the President, shake his hand, play a little soccer on the front lawn? It’s definitely a cool, cool day for everybody.”