GALAXY: Presidential visit is 'special'

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
11:11
PM PT

The Galaxy are giddy over what awaits them Tuesday, even those who've experienced this sort of thing before. Like A.J. DeLaGarza.


The fourth-year defender was honored at the White House in 2005, after his University of Maryland soccer team won an NCAA championship. Tuesday's visit with President Obama, to fête L.A.'s MLS Cup championship last fall, will be even better, he says.

“Not a lot of people get to do this, meet the president of the United States,” DeLaGarza, who grew up in nearby Bryans Road, Md, said in audio the Galaxy made available to ESPN Los Angeles. “I was fortunate enough my freshman year at college to meet [George W.] Bush with all the other teams that won [collegiate] national championships in the fall that year. ... This is a little bit more special than my college experience, because I was sharing with hundreds of student-athletes, but this is just L.A. Galaxy, so it's special.

“It's a great experience, something we'll never forget.”

The Galaxy arrived in Washington following its 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon at Montreal, and the players who didn't travel, along with some of the club's staff, joined the group Monday. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who is away from the team in Major League Soccer's substance-abuse treatment program, will join up Tuesday with a “representative from the program” before returning to his treatment facility Tuesday night.

It's enough to take their minds off this weekend's test -- Saturday's SuperClasico against Chivas USA at Home Depot Center -- at least for a few moments.

“To be honored at the White House hits you on so many levels,” said associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who was part of the D.C. United team that visited Bill Clinton in 1999 and was with the U.S. World Cup team that received a phone call from Bush in 2002. “Obviously, one is we're the champions, and having that crown from last year is still a proud moment for the L.A. Galaxy. But clearly the tradition in this country of honoring champions at the White House doesn't come around very often in a coach's career and the players' careers. We're all very humbled and honored for the opportunity.”

Defender Sean Franklin was asked what he planned to tell Barack Obama.

“I've been thinking,” he said. “I still don't know exactly what I'm gonna say. I just hope whatever it is, it's something intelligent. ... It's crazy. I never thought I would meet a president, especially this president. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

Todd Dunivant remembers that when the Galaxy won the MLS Cup in 2005, they didn't get a White House trip.

“I've seen [the White House] from afar, like every other tourist, and I've always wondered what goes on inside, so we're finally going to get to see it up close, and everyone is just really excited for that opportunity to see what it's all about. The chance to have this president address us and honor us like that, it's incredible. It's once in a lifetime. ... Hopefully, not once in a lifetime.”

Dunivant says he is an Obama supporter, but that doesn't really matter. This trip isn't about politics.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “whether you vote for him or you don't, he's our president, he's America's president, and we won the championship in America. Regardless of your political affiliation, it's just an incredible experience. To be able to enjoy that with your teammates, it's amazing.”

Following the ceremony on the White House's South Lawn, the Galaxy will join first lady Michelle Obama for a clinic with young players from around the country. When that's done, the focus returns to Chivas.

“It's going to be great to go meet the president and the first lady, and we're obviously going to enjoy that,” said David Beckham, an Englishman who ought to be used to these occasions, the number of dignitaries he's met over the years. “And then it's back to business.”

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