FROM bad to worse. The headless chickens of Katowice and Oslo had egg all over their faces in the Foxborough stadium last night with this deserved defeat by the Americans as embarrassing a result as any England have suffered these last 40 years.
The pressure on Graham Taylor intensified with each of the goals Thomas Dooley and Alexi Lalas rammed past his remodelled defence.
As in 1950, when Walter Winterbottom's team were beaten 1-0 in Belo Horizonte, England are the laughing stock of international football. Never mind those headless chickens: the lame-duck manager is on borrowed time. The Americans came to the game with one win in 15 internationals and had not scored for nearly six hours. Yet they won strictly on merit. From England's viewpoint, it can hardly get any worse.
Oh yes it can. They now move on to Washington, where they play Brazil on Sunday, before completing the tournament the following Saturday, against Germany in Detroit. What the two best teams in the world might do to Taylor's demoralised rabble hardly bears thinking about.
England went into the game buoyed by the news that the Netherlands and Norway had drawn 0-0 in Rotterdam, a result which was deemed to lessen the threat posed by the Dutch in World Cup Group Two. Ninety minutes later, talk of English qualification seemed utterly absurd.
Ominously, England had been training at Concord, the town where colonial farmers routed the Redcoats in 1775 during the War of Independence. In the circumstances, it was tempting providence to play in red and English faces were soon as scarlet as their garish reserve strip when the Americans took the lead just before half-time.
England had begun well enough but their attacking lacked both cohesion and conviction. For all that, Nigel Clough should have scored after only two minutes, but miscued at the far post after John Barnes had set him up with a measured cross from the right.
Tony Dorigo provided the same service from the left, but this time Les Ferdinand was unable to make proper contact in front of goal, and when Barnes sent a left-footed curler narrowly wide it was the same old story. Those chances were going to waste, yet again.
Once again England were made to rue their extravagance, the Americans hitting back with spirit and enterprise to create a string of goalscoring opportunities, culminating in a deserved lead.
The first chance saw Jeff Agoos play in Wegerle, whose strong shot, close in, demanded a good save from Chris Woods. The second found Wegerle switching to the role of provider and cutting the ball back from the byeline with a dexterity which left Woods helpless. It seemed Eric Wynalda must score, but Pallister's last-ditch intervention spared England's blushes. Temporarily.
Pallister and Carlton Palmer were in the thick of the action at the heart of an England defence given more trouble than they might have expected from a team who came to the game with just one win in 15 internationals. Wegerle was by far the cleverest player on show and his perceptive prompting might have produced a goal 10 minutes before half- time, when Dooley advanced in pursuit of an inviting pass, only to be thwarted by Woods' well-timed dash from his line. England were even closer when Sharpe's cross from the left was helped on by Ian Wright to Lee Dixon, who thrashed it against Tony Meola's left-hand upright.
The Americans it was who finally took the lead, after 43 minutes, when they scored a goal of such rich quality that it put England's prosaic plodders to shame.
Agoos's cross from the left appeared to have evaded Tab Ramos on the far side but he reached to bring the ball under instant control before pulling it back to Dooley, who stooped to conquer with a solid header from five yards.
England stirred themselves at the start of the second half and Meola made impressive saves to keep out John Doyle's involuntary deflection of a Dixon cross and two crisp shots from Clough.
Well though he played, the American captain was helpless when a Barnes flick-on fell to Wright, five yards out. It should have been the equaliser. Instead the predator of the Premier League was again found wanting at international level, nudging a good chance over.
Pallister, strong and resolute, was one of England's few successes but the fact that the centre-half was required to distinguish himself served as a condemnation of this latest humiliating performance. By the end England were losing discipline and admirers in equal measure, with Wright felling Meola and Paul Ince lucky to get away with a nasty foul which saw Dooley helped off.
Rough justice was soon forthcoming. Dooley's substitute, Lalas, had been on for barely four minutes when he removed England from contention by heading in a Ramos corner. A marvellous night for the World Cup hosts; a shameful one for England.
UNITED STATES: Meola (US Soccer Federation); Lapper, Doyle (both USSF), Dooley (Kaiserslautern), Harkes (Sheffield Wednesday), Ramos (Real Betis), Wynalda (Saarbrucken), Agoos, Armstrong (both USSF), Wegerle (Coventry City), Clavijo (USSF). Substitutes: Stewart (Willem II Tilburg) for Wynalda 62; Lalas (USSF) for Dooley 68; Jones (FC Cologne) for Ramos 82.
ENGLAND: Woods (Sheffield Wednesday); Dixon (Arsenal), Dorigo (Leeds United), Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Pallister (Manchester United), Batty (Leeds United), Ferdinand (Queen's Park Rangers), Barnes (Liverpool), Ince (Manchester United), Clough (Liverpool), Sharpe (Manchester United). Substitutes: Wright (Arsenal) for Ferdinand, 34; Walker (Sampdoria) for Palmer, 61.
Referee: A Weiser (Austria).