Obama greets Galaxy at White House

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Sports,MLS,Craig Stouffer

President jokes Beckham as L.A. celebrates title

David Beckham is usually the one making people swoon.

But it was the Los Angeles Galaxy superstar who was humbled by President Obama as the 2011 MLS Cup champions were celebrated at the White House on Tuesday.

Obama called Beckham a "young up-and-comer," joking that half of the 37-year-old midfielder's teammates could be his kids while lauding Beckham's contribution, in spite of multiple injuries, to the Galaxy's first title since 2005.

"He is tough," said Obama, who was presented with a jersey and a signed soccer ball. "In fact, it is a rare man who can be that tough on the field and have his own line of underwear. David Beckham is that man."

Beckham, who had met the President a couple of times, admitted he was embarrassed but appreciated the humor.

"I'll have to send him some long johns and some of the different pieces," Beckham said. "He'll definitely be getting a package."

Star power was central to Obama's remarks, as he called the Galaxy, "The Miami Heat of soccer," even though the basketball team has yet to match what Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Beckham accomplished in Beckham's fourth full MLS season.

"It makes you realize that people care, and people take notice," Donovan said. "At the end of the day, we're just playing a soccer game so I get it. There's a lot more important things going on in the world. But it's still cool to know that you inspire people and people care about what you are doing."

The Galaxy (3-5-2) have struggled so far this year, in part due to the absence of former Maryland centerback Omar Gonzalez, who Obama acknowledged along with fellow defender and Terps alum A.J. DeLaGarza, who won a national title while in College Park.

But Beckham was the focus, not only for the tumultuous start to his stateside tenure -- the Galaxy tied for the worst record in MLS in 2008 -- but for his thick mustache and goatee, which he said also earned him a hard time from Obama.

"Normally, I wouldn't have it, but I'm on a bet with one of my friends," Beckham said. "It's a Kings playoff beard. It's been a hell of a journey."

Los Angeles goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who is currently away from the team while he completes Major League Soccer's substance abuse program, was also given clearance to participate in the White House visit.

"It was very nice to see Josh," Donovan said. "I think 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 we're all really excited that he could be a part of it."

The Galaxy will not play an away game against D.C. United in Washington this season due to an unbalanced schedule, but Donovan will be back with the U.S. national team for an exhibition match against Brazil at FedEx Field on May 30.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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