WASHINGTON – The Easter egg roll. The lighting of the Christmas tree. The presidential pardon issued to a lucky Thanksgiving turkey.
Oh, and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
They’re all White House traditions, at this point.
The Galaxy were in the nation’s capital Monday morning, invited by President Obama to celebrate their 2014 MLS Cup championship alongside the 2014 Stanley Cup winning Los Angeles Kings. It was the Galaxy’s third such visit in just four years, making them veritable White House regulars.
“If you’re feeling a little déjà vu, you're not alone,” joked Obama, who went on to reference a scene from the movie Groundhog Day. “Two years ago, we had the Galaxy and the Kings together here, so if you see Bill Murray playing piano in the foyer, you know something weird is going on, and we’ll probably be doing this again.”
“This means a lot,” said Galaxy forward Robbie Keane, who’s been present for all three of LA’s recent titles. “This never gets boring. You’re here because you won a championship – you don’t get bored of winning things – so I just hope we’ll be here next year again.”
For Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, his familiarity with White House visits extends beyond his time with LA. He found himself a guest of previous Presidents on multiple occasions, having hoisted the MLS Cup with D.C. United in the league’s early years and even after winning a College Cup with the University of Virginia in 1994.
“It’s always a great experience to be honored at the White House,” Arena said. “They’ve all been special experiences. Today was a little unique, to share the stage with the Kings, such a fantastic team, and also our own organization. It’s a really special moment for both teams. To recognize these athletes from the Kings and Galaxy is wonderful and the President was wonderful and the White House staff has been great as well.”
During the ceremony, Obama spoke effusively about the Galaxy, calling the recently retired Landon Donovan – who missed the ceremony while traveling overseas – “the greatest soccer player this country has ever produced.”
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Afterward, the president shared a few moments with Keane, exchanging pleasantries with the Irish international before departing the East Room.
“When he was in Ireland in 2011,” said Keane, “I got to see him there also. He gave a great speech. He said, ‘Is féidir linn,’ which means ‘Yes we can [in Gaelic],’ so I said that to him. We spoke about where he visits with his family when he’s there, had a few brief words about that."
Said center back Omar Gonzalez of the return visit: "Never did I imagine that I’d be coming to the white house this frequently, or winning three championships. You don’t even think about it. When you’re young you just want to become a professional athlete, reach your goals and then to become a pro and be a part of an amazing organization like the Galaxy.
“And then having great players around you where you have the opportunity to achieve such great success, it’s been incredible. Like I said before, every time we come here is special."