WASHINGTON – Few members of the Sporting Kansas City delegation could match the size of the broad grin on Dom Dwyer's face at the White House ceremony to honor their 2013 MLS Cup championship run on Wednesday afternoon.
Dwyer wasn't eligible to vote for Barack Obama – or any other candidate, for that matter – in the last presidential election, and he hadn't even yet reached the United States when Obama vaulted into history as a powerhouse candidate in 2008.
But an audience with the Commander in Chief meant just as much to Sporting's top striker as it did to any of his teammates, marking the latest milestone on his meteoric rise from obscure junior college prospect to crack MLS marksman, and perhaps beyond.
If things go the way he plans, he'll soon be pledging allegiance to his adopted country – and hopefully even wearing the colors of its national team.
“I love this country,” Dwyer told MLSsoccer.com after Wednesday's ceremony in the East Room of the White House. “I love my life here and obviously the league is growing so fast. It's definitely a good place to be and obviously the [US] men's national team are growing very fast.
“I've had my eyes set on it and it's up there in my mind, so I guess we'll see how I progress in the next few years, and hopefully I make the grade.”
The 24-year-old currently holds a green card and has a future date circled on his calendar on which he hopes to take his love affair with the USA to the next level.
“I'm on track,” he said. “February 2017 – Valentine's Day – is when I should be eligible for my passport, so that's definitely a day I'm looking forward to. And I guess we'll see from there how I progress.”
Dwyer found opportunities stateside that eluded him in his homeland of England, where he was released from the academy program at Norwich City and told by doctors that he'd never play at the professional level after a succession of foot injuries handicapped his development.
“I don't know, honestly. Maybe it was them missing, maybe it was me progressing late,” he said. “You get opportunities here and there and it's a very small window – you have be lucky and be good at the same time.
“It was kind of a last resort to get a college degree. The doctors told me I wouldn't be able to play, that I wouldn't have a career in soccer, so my plan was to get a scholarship, get a free degree and play, and then go into life. I managed to keep myself healthy and all those problems seemed to go away – touch wood – and here I am.”
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Dwyer has reportedly drawn interest from clubs in England, and a transfer back home could complicate his road to US citizenship. Cognizant of the inherent instability of a professional's life, he rules nothing out for the moment, preferring to savor it instead.
“There's teams that have come in here and there, but I'm happy right now. I'm sure this offseason will be interesting,” he said. “Things change and you never really know. You just have to go with it and if Kansas City decide that they would like to keep me, I don't think that's a bad scenario either.
“I'm just enjoying myself now and riding the wave, and hopefully going on to bigger and better things,” he added, before nodding in the direction of his USMNT-starring teammates Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. “And hopefully joining a few of these guys on the national team.”