The next generation lines up for autographs.

WAKEMED SOCCER PARK—The mighty United States women’s national soccer team came to a stadium and a region that has been the site of so much history. Before a crowd of 5,323, the Americans put in a solid performance, winning 2-0 in an international friendly over a Japan side that—although technically skilled—was smaller and, on this night, more timid.

Although this was a tuneup for next month’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, it was also a clash between two top contenders, the first-ranked Americans and the fourth-ranked Japanese. But if the Japanese had their “A” game tonight, there’s considerable distance between them and the top three.

At WakeMed, the Yanks combined a bruising defense that easily thwarted the runs of Japan’s talented but diminutive forwards, excellent distribution by central midfielders Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd and lightning runs down the flank by an unstoppable Heather O’Reilly.

O’Reilly, who was an All-American for UNC from 2003-06, received a warm reception from the crowd at the pre-game introductions. In the 28th minute, her run to the byline past a hapless Aya Sameshima drew a collective gasp from the crowd, whereupon she crossed to Amy Rodriguez, lurking unmarked outside the six-yard-box, who knocked in the first goal.

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