The biggest pregame cheer came for Alex Morgan. The biggest in-game cheer was for Megan Rapinoe’s third-minute goal.
Abby Wambach’s record-setting goal got the deserved fanfare, and Hope Solo received chants when handling the ball in net.
And in the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s 4-1 victory against Switzerland, fans weren’t the only ones getting goosebumps from the atmosphere.
“The environment tonight was phenomenal. When Abby walked into the locker room (before the game) she said ‘THAT’S how it should feel going to playing a soccer game’ because we all had the chills with the girls outside screaming and cheering and all the tailgaters,” forward Christen Press said.
Amid the stars, a new and local face turned heads as she tried to solidify her role on the team.
Recent UNC product Crystal Dunn, 22, thought she had a mixed bag of success while playing opposite of her normal position of right back. But coach Jill Ellis, in just her third game since being promoted from interim coach, saw plenty of positives with Dunn on the left side.
Ellis wanted Dunn, who just concluded her Tar Heel career in the fall and won the 2012 Herrman Trophy given to the top NCAA women’s soccer player, and fellow outside back Ali Krieger to push up more often.
But Ellis liked Dunn’s defending.
“This is her first time back in with me. I thought she did a solid job,” Ellis said. “I was pleased. Pleased with her positioning overall.”
In the game’s first 30 minutes, Dunn got plenty of action. Switzerland appeared to change plans in the second half.
Her emergence comes at a pivotal time.
This was the final friendly before the start of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup.
After finishing runner-up in 2011, the big need for the U.S. women was to find better defenders. It’s got more than enough goal-scorers.
“It’s going to be big. I think over the past year, year-and-a-half, two years, we’ve been switching up a lot and I think it’s kind of important trying to get a set back four. And I think that’s what I’m competing for – to try and get a spot on this team,” Dunn said.
The last time the USWNT came to Cary, the team beat Japan 2-0. This was before Morgan, Solo and Wambach were household names, and the fanfare shows the difference.
Almost double the number of fans (9,992) welcomed the team this year, setting a new North Carolina record for an international women’s soccer match. The three women’s soccer games in North Carolina that have hosted more than 10,000 fans were all for the NCAA Women’s College Cup.
Fans barely had time to get the pregame excitement out of their system before the U.S. scored in its first venture into the attacking third.
Megan Rapinoe sent a long through ball to Sydney Leroux down the left flank. Leroux dribbled in and found Rapinoe as she stepped near the box. Rapinoe took a touch before driving in the 3rd-minute goal from about 20 feet.
The score was 1-0 at halftime.
After a Swiss handball in the box, the United States’ Carli Lloyd converted a penalty kick in the 56th to make it 2-0.
Roles reversed in the 70th, when a U.S. handball allowed Switzerland’s Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic to convert the penalty kick and make it 2-1, which prevented Solo from breaking the USWNT record for shutouts.
She remains tied with Briana Scurry with 71. It was also Solo’s first game with the team since she was arrested for domestic violence in June.
She did not talk to reporters after the game.
Press had the game’s highlight goal in the 77th minute, chesting down a clearance and firing in a 25-yard half-volley that kicked down off the crossbar.
Wambach, who subbed in at halftime, was pushed down in the box in the 86th minute and drew a penalty kick. She converted the penalty to become the second USWNT player – Mia Hamm was the first – to top the 400-point mark for a career. She is already the all-time leader in goals.
WakeMed Soccer Park has now hosted six women’s national team games. All of them have been wins.