WASHINGTON – David Beckham and the LA Galaxy stopped by the White House on Tuesday, stepping back from the challenges of their current season just long enough to savor their glorious 2011 campaign in the company of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and a room full of wowed youth soccer players from Washington, D.C.
Squeezing in a gregarious encounter with the commander-in-chief between last weekend’s 1-1 road draw in Montreal and the upcoming SuperClasico against Chivas USA gave the Galaxy – praised as “one of the most talented lineups that MLS has ever seen” by President Obama – a moment of joy during a stressful spring that’s left them third from bottom in the Western Conference rankings.
And, perhaps, it has provided the defending MLS Cup champions with a useful opportunity to draw a line under their disappointing performances to date this year.
“As [Obama] was walking out, he said, ‘How’s this season going?’ And there were a few ‘hmphs,’” said Beckham on Tuesday, smiling wryly after bearing the brunt of the President’s lighthearted humor during a sincere salute to the champs.
“It’s not been a great start to the season, but we’ve had worse,” Beckham noted. “There’s a long way to go – still more than 25 games to go. We’ll pick it up. But, visiting here today is motivation for individuals and the whole team.”
For Beckham himself, the trip to Pennsylvania Avenue also offered an opportunity for personal reflection on his own American experience as he approaches the fifth anniversary of his lavishly hyped arrival in MLS.
WATCH: Galaxy's White House reactions
Back in July 2007, few would’ve predicted it would take him and the Galaxy this long to reach the heights of success that a White House visit entails. Arguably the first global icon to ply his trade in the young league, he arrived amid a cascade of praise and publicity, only to face a variety of setbacks and hardships which complicated his and his team’s path to dominance.
On Tuesday, shortly after Obama marveled at the grit Beckham showed in shaking off a litany of painful injuries to lead his team to MLS Cup glory, the Englishman was asked if he’d envisioned this moment back when he first joined the club.
“I always hoped I would, just because it would’ve meant that we’d won a championship,” he said. “It’s been a hell of a journey. It’s been amazing all the way through my career. To have met the people that I’ve met, to have been in the situations that I’ve been in, [it’s] incredible. And this is definitely one of the biggest that I’ve experienced.”
While undoubtedly honored to be congratulated by the President, LA head coach Bruce Arena would have rather had the celebration on a different date.
Fretting over the extra wear and tear the D.C. trip imposed on his frazzled team, he admitted to The Washington Post on Monday that “in a perfect world, we certainly wouldn’t be doing this.”
Beckham, however, shrugged off the matter, emphasizing the magnitude of the moment and paying tribute to the leader of his adopted country with a savvy and sincerity that made it clear just how much he’s learned over the past half-decade.
“It’s amazing,” Beckham expressed candidly. “We’re proud of what we achieved last year, so to be here, we’re honored. [The travel] is something that not one player has complained about.”