WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama welcomed the LA Galaxy to the White House on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate their MLS Cup championship for the second season in a row, and to hear the nation's chief executive tell it, they might want to credit him with an assist for giving them their mojo back a year ago.
“The champions didn't look all that good. An injury bug plagued the team; it seemed like it might be a rebuilding year,” said Obama, referencing the team's weak 2012 start during his succinct speech to a packed crowd in the White House's opulent East Room. “But right after that visit [here], they turned things around.
“You can call it coincidence, but I'd like to point out that right after they visited with me, the Galaxy built the best record in the league.”
LA were happy to take that and a few other presidential wisecracks in stride as they were welcomed alongside their fellow AEG properties, the NHL Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, on an unseasonably chilly afternoon in downtown Washington.
Unlike last year's visit, there was no David Beckham for the Commander-in-Chief to tease. But Obama still seemed to be enjoying himself as he opened his remarks with a playful observation that the back-to-back MLS champions were getting rather comfortable in his historic residence.
Later, he accepted the team-autographed ball presented to him by fresh-off-hiatus Galaxy star Landon Donovan and immediately tossed it up in the air to thump a header, drawing surprised laughs from an audience comprised of schoolchildren, media and friends and family of the two teams.
Obama also took care to praise the Galaxy and Kings for their outreach and philanthropic programs.
“Both of these teams are full of some pretty standup players and coaches. They're out in the community year-round, they're changing lives, they're making a difference.” he said. “As coach [Bruce] Arena of the Galaxy says, 'The soccer is very much secondary if we can have an impact on the lives of young kids, we want to be a part of that.' That's something we all appreciate, especially those of us who are parents.”
Alluding to defender Omar Gonzalez and the other Galaxy players absent due to international duty, the President also made clear that he and his staff are well aware of the biggest event in American soccer this week.
“I want to wish team USA the very best of luck as they take on Mexico tonight,” he said.
Arena and his team, who are training in the nation's capital for most of this week ahead of their visit to Toronto FC on Saturday, did not speak with media at the White House.
But Donovan, Mike Magee and Todd Dunivant took part in a question-and-answer session with adoring children from across the country as part of First Lady Michelle Obama's “Let's Move!” health and fitness program, as the originally-scheduled soccer clinic on the South Lawn had to be canceled due to an inclement weather forecast.