By AVI CREDITOR
WASHINGTON — The Los Angeles Galaxy's three Designated Players combined for the moment of brilliance that earned the club the MLS Cup trophy last November, and the three were at the heart of President Barack Obama's remarks in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, when he honored the Galaxy for their 2011 championship.
"This is the Miami Heat of soccer," Obama said in his opening, referring to the Big Three, star-studded nature of the team. "Together they represent one of the most talented lineups that MLS has ever seen."
Obama proceeded to single out the DPs, starting with Robbie Keane, who he noted was the all-time leading scorer of the Irish national team. Obama even joked that Keane was "a cousin of mine," making a light-hearted remark at his distant Irish roots.
"We also have a young up-and-comer on the team, a guy by the name of David Beckham," Obama continued. "I gave David a hard time. I said half his teammates could be his kids! We're getting old, David, although you're holding up better than me."
Obama pointed out that Beckham, at 36, had his best season in MLS with 15 assists while playing through major injuries down the stretch, including the hamstring tear he picked up in the build-up to MLS Cup.
"He is tough," Obama said, before quipping, "It is a rare man who can be that tough on the field and also have his own line of underwear. David Beckham is that man."
Beckham enjoyed the ribbing he got from Obama, whom he said he had met on a couple of previous occasions, once in London and once in Los Angeles.
"It was funny," Beckham said. "Embarrassing, but funny. I'll have to send him some long johns and some of the different pieces.
"He made a few comments about me today. The underwear, the being a dad to some of the kids, and also my facial hair. Normally I wouldn't have it, but I'm on a bet with one of my friends. It's a Kings (L.A. hockey team) playoff beard."
Obama continued on to laud Landon Donovan, whom he also congratulated after the U.S. men's national team's heroic victory over Algeria that sealed first place in Group C of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
"There's the captain, Landon Donovan, who has done more for American soccer than just about anybody," Obama said about the Galaxy star, who scored the MLS Cup-winning goal off feeds from Beckham and Keane in the 72nd minute of the Galaxy's 1-0 triumph over the Houston Dynamo. "Landon's eye for the net, his will to win are legendary, and once again he stepped up when his teammates needed him most."
Obama also pointed out that it was the second time that defenders A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez had made the White House trip in his tenure as president, with them doing so after winning the 2008 NCAA men's soccer championship at the University of Maryland. Gonzalez, who is still recovering from a torn ACL, was perched in the back row of players standing behind the president.
To his left was goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who is on an undefinite leave from the club after entering the league's substance abuse and behavioral health program but was granted the ability to take part in the festivities.
"It was very nice to see Josh," Donovan said. "We're all very much encouraged to see him and see how he's doing. I know it was a big deal for him, and I think we're all really excited that he could be a part of it."
Following Obama's final remarks — in which he concluded that, "Together you pulled off one of the toughest feats in team sports. You lived up to the hype." – and an introduction from coach Bruce Arena, Donovan had the honor of presenting Obama with a personalized Galaxy jersey and a silver ball before the club posed for photographs. Afterwards, some of the players joined First Lady Michelle Obama for a question-and-answer session with local youth.
While the Galaxy, off to a 3-5-2 start, have struggled in the early phase of their title defense, there's hope that Tuesday's unique experience will provide a springboard to bigger things, starting with a victory over Chivas USA in Saturday's SuperClasico.
"It's an amazing tradition to have for teams to be able to come here," Beckham said. "You come out meeting the president, and it motivates you to want to come back next year. I hope we do because it's a great day, a proud day for all of us.
"As (Obama) was walking out he said, "How's the season going?' and there was a few (groans). So it's not been a great start to the season, but we've had worse. There's a long way to go. We'll pick it up. Visiting here today is motivation for individuals and the whole team."