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WASHINGTON — A week after meeting Robbie Findley and the rest of the U.S. National Team before it departed for South Africa for the World Cup, President Barrack Obama opened the White House door for Findley's Real Salt Lake teammates for a ceremony in the East Room of the White House this morning.
"Welcome to the White House and congratulations on winning your first MLS Cup championship, and for bringing the state of Utah its first professional sports title in 40 years," said Obama.
With RSL coach Jason Kreis standing by his side, President Obama spoke from the podium to the assembled crowd in the East Room, which included Sen. Bob Bennett, for about five minutes. Standing behind him were 33 other members of last year's championship team, including co-owners Dave Checketts and Dell Loy Hansen, president Bill Manning, general manager Garth Lagerwey, 18 players and 10 members of the medical and technical staff.
"I know this team had a pretty unlikely journey to get here. You qualified for the playoffs on the last day of the season with a losing record, that's cutting it a little close. You beat your biggest rival, took down the defending champions on your way to the title game, and with the Cup on the line you held two of the game's biggest stars scoreless in regulation and went onto win in a shootout," said Obama.
Obama singled out Findley and goalkeeper Nick Rimando for their efforts in leading RSL to the MLS Cup championship last year. When he tried to turn and congratulate Findley, however, Kreis reminded him that Findley was already in South Africa — which was followed by a loud chuckle from the audience.
"It is because of the efforts of Robbie and the rest of the folks here today that soccer continues to get more popular every year in the United States, and as the father of soccer playing daughters I can tell you it shows no signs of slowing down," said Obama
He applauded the team made up of players from Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Holland, Jamaica and the United States for overcoming their language and cultural barriers to the win the championship.
Afterward Obama was presented with a No. 10 Real Salt Lake jersey by Dave Checketts with the name Obama on the back. He then shook the hands of the 34 gathered Real Salt Lake members before quickly exiting the room to prepare for his afternoon visit to the Gulf of Mexico.
Following the presentation, the team filed back into the Green Room and was given a brief tour of the White House.