DRESDEN, Germany -- Lauren Cheney made United States coach Pia Sundhage very happy Tuesday.
Cheney started her first match since early this year in the Women's World Cup, and scored the first goal as the U.S. beat North Korea, 2-0, at Rudolf-Harbig Stadium in Group C.
Sundhage decided just days before the match to start Cheney in place of Megan Rapinoe, and Cheney created numerous chances before finally scoring the first goal off a cross from Abby Wambach.
Defender Rachel Buehler added the second goal in the 76th minute, as the U.S. remained unbeaten in four all-time meetings with North Korea in the World Cup.
The U.S. leads Group C on goal differential over Sweden, which edged Colombia 1-0 on Tuesday. The U.S. plays Colombia on Saturday, when North Korea plays Sweden.
The U.S. produced the majority of the scoring chances in the first 35 minutes, as Carli Lloyd and Cheney both had a pair of chances but failed to test North Korea goalie Hong Myong Hui.
After only dealing with two slow rolling shots early, American goalkeeper Hope Solo was much busier over the last 10 minutes of the first half as the Koreans became the more dangerous side.
Su Gyon Kim, who is 16, forced a diving save by Solo at the right post in the 37th and, after Lloyd missed a third shot at Hong Myong Hui, Song Jong Sun put a pass through the six-yard box in the 39th that the U.S. was lucky to clear.
Korea had another chance in the 42nd when Ra Un Sim finished off an impressive attack with a shot wide of the upper-corner corner. Yet another big save from Solo minutes later denied Yun Mi Jo, who had a chance from just yards out.
Solo finished the first half with four saves, with the two on Su Gyon Kim and Yun Mi Jo the biggest by either goalie in the first 45 minutes.
Cheney opened the second half with two more opportunities and Shannon Boxx and Wambach also had shots in the first six minutes after half, but the opener did not come until Wambach set up Cheney in the 54th.
Wambach made a nice move on the left to open space against a defender and was able to send an uncontested cross to the top of the six-yard box, where Cheney adjusted and headed back to the left post to find the bottom-left corner.
North Korea almost answered after the restart, but Ye Gyon Ri's skimmed a shot off the crossbar in the 56th, then forced a save from Solo in the 58th.
The U.S. settled down after the two quick Korean chances, and Wambach headed a shot off Hong Myong Hui that then bounced off the crossbar, and Amy Rodriguez forced a diving save at the left post in the 72nd before the second goal came.
The Americans continued to pressure and Ali Krieger put a shot off the bar and it deflected into the area to Lloyd, who controlled and dropped a pass back to Buehler. Buehler drove a shot to the bottom left to double the lead.
The U.S. tied North Korea, 2-2, in its World Cup opener four years ago but won for the third time against the Asian country in the World Cup, and posted its third shutout in the series.