CARSON, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza knows US presidents. He's met two of them and quips, as he prepares for his third White House visit, that “me and Obama are good friends now.”
He'll get the chance to hang out with his pal on Tuesday, when the president fêtes LA's MLS Cup championship victory from a few months back. Landon Donovan will be there, his first official appearance after returning this week from his extended leave of absence, and so will the Los Angeles Kings, the NHL's Stanley Cup champions and AEG-owned stablemates of the Galaxy.
That makes this occasion rather special. Galaxy players are regulars at Kings home games, and head coach Bruce Arena calls the dual celebrations “a fabulous day for our organization.”
It's a far better day than last year's mid-May celebration of the 2011 championship. The Galaxy were off to a horrid start, and Arena blamed a “championship hangover” that wouldn't go away until the team got through its White House ceremony.
“It's better because we've got a better record right now,” midfielder Mike Magee said after the Galaxy (2-0-1) beat Colorado on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center. “Last year, Bruce wasn't too happy and was trying to take the trip away from us because we were playing so poorly.”
It informed preseason preparations this year, and the LA's certainly happy to take care of pomp on their first league road trip of the season.
“To get it out of the way and just focus on this year,” Magee said, “is going to be crucial for us.”
The thrill of meeting the president is significant, even for those who've already done so.
“I met Bush a while ago, and to be be able to go back and see Obama this year is something special,” said DeLaGarza, who celebrated with the previous president after the University of Maryland won the NCAA title in 2005, when he was a freshman. “For the guys who were here last year, who didn't get to go on stage [because they weren't part of the 2011 team], now they get to go on stage for helping us win a championship.”
Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini won't be onstage – he signed the LA just before New Year's – but he says he'll be excited to “be part of such an important day.” He looks forward to meeting President Obama, “the most important guy on earth at the moment.”
It won't be his first experience with a head of state. The former Chelsea netminder says he “never met the Queen” when he was in England, but “in Italy, well, you know, [Silvio] Berlusconi, our old prime minister, he was my president when I was at Milan.”
“You don't take things like this for granted. ... It's absolutely amazing,” Magee said. “I don't think too many people grow up thinking they'll get a chance to meet the president, and now it's going to be my second time in as many years. It seems the perks of winning MLS Cup just keep coming. It's something I'll never forget.”