FOXBOROUGH — This was where Kristie Mewis’s uncle worked for 41 years. He was the Patriots’ equipment manager, the longest tenured employee in franchise history.
Don Brocher died in January of leukemia.
On Saturday, his niece gave him a most fitting tribute.
Mewis scored in the third minute as the US women defeated South Korea, 4-1, at Gillette Stadium.
There were 13,035 in the crowd, including more than 60 friends and family members of Mewis.
“I wish [my uncle] was here to see me play here,” Mewis said, glancing around the stadium where Brocher was a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams. “But I know he was here tonight.”
Mewis, who went to Whitman-Hanson and Boston College, trained for the United States leading up to the 2012 Olympics. She didn’t make the cut and returned to BC for her senior season.
Mewis trained and worked on technique, even trying defense instead of her natural midfield — whatever the team needed.
“She’s very comfortable in possession,” said first-year US coach Tom Sermanni. “She has good technique for long or short passes. And I think tonight, she showed some great defensive discipline.”
And scoring prowess. About two minutes in, forward Sydney Leroux darted down the center of the field, mustering a shot as her defender lagged a half-step behind.
Mewis pounced on the rebound. It was her first international goal.
“I was really happy for her to get the start,” forward Alex Morgan said. “And it was the cherry on top to get the goal. She’s just been really happy to be here in Boston.”
Four minutes later, defender Lauren Cheney scored. South Korea was rattled.
The United States was competing on home soil for the first time since February. After the teams play again June 20 in New Jersey, the US team doesn’t have anything scheduled — domestic or international.
The players will scatter, competing for clubs as far away as Sweden and as close as Somerville (Leroux and defender Heather O’Reilly play for the Boston Breakers).
South Korea particularly struggled with containing Leroux’s speed. She was tripped three times in the first half on tangles with defenders.
In fact, most of the first half was sloppy. The US team rarely connected on consecutive passes. At one point, South Korea goalie Kim Jungmi stepped out of bounds while carrying the ball.
On a scrum in the 25th minute, the US team deserted midfielder Cho Sohyun about 20 yards from their goal. Sohyun scored to cut the deficit to 2-1, a score that held going into halftime.
“We really took our foot off the piano,” Sermanni said. ”So I was a bit disappointed with how we played in the second part of the first half.”
Carli Lloyd scored in the 57th minute. Abby Wambach converted a penalty kick in stoppage time for her 156th career goal — two behind Mia Hamm’s US record of 158.
The atmosphere was reminiscent of a football game.
Two hours before kickoff, rows of fold-up chairs, portable grills, and errant soccer balls already littered Gillette Stadium’s parking lot. Hints of barbecue chicken and slightly burned burgers wafted through the crowd. And a few rolling chants of “U-S-A!”
During warmups, US players wore navy blue T-shirts with yellow patches on the front. A black “1’’ was stitched in the center. The jerseys will be signed and auctioned off for the One Fund Boston.
For Mewis, it was an emotional day. At 22, she is three years older than when her uncle was hired as a Patriots ball boy in 1972. He was eventually promoted to equipment manager in 1994.
Until he was diagnosed with leukemia in August, Brocher amassed a streak of working 834 consecutive Patriots preseason, regular-season, and postseason games.
Saturday was Mewis’s first career game at Gillette.