Their pleasure at a win achieved through Slobodan Komljenovic's fourth- minute goal was tempered by a knee injury to their striker, Predrag Mijatovic. Having first felt the injury during the warm-up, he lasted only 31 minutes.
Steve Sampson, in possibly his last match as the United States coach, made four changes from the side beaten by Iran. Among the casualties was Kasey Keller, who was replaced by Brad Friedel.
The Liverpool keeper did not make the best of starts. In the fourth minute, Sinisa Mihajlovic thumped in a free-kick from nearly 30 yards, Friedel padded it away and Komljenovic neatly headed the ball past him into goal.
Game over? Not so. The US, despite being pointless and already without a hope of progressing to the second round, proved to be spirited and talented. "We have demonstrated we are capable of playing with the best teams in the world," Sampson said. "But we do have difficulties pulling off a win. I think we need to be more precise in front of the goal."
Yugoslavia looked slicker and more penetrative when they did move forward. At the heart of their better moves was Dragan Stojkovic, one of a handful of survivors from the last tournament in France, the 1984 European Championships. Like the others, who include Michael Laudrup, Lothar Matthaus and Gheorghe Hagi, age has not dimmed his class.
Not that all the Slavs were easy on the eye. There was Savo Milosevic, for a start. For Aston Villa fans watching at home he generously provided them with an example of what they will be missing since his move to Real Zaragoza. It came two minutes from the interval after Dejan Stankovic had spilt the American defence with a reverse pass. Milosevic ran on to the pass - and fell over.
He was not the first to suffer embarrassment. As early as the second minute Frankie Hejduk sent over a cross from the right which drifted on the wind to drop over the goalkeeper, Ivica Kralj, and hit the far post.
It was an uncompromising game with several heavy challenges. Even the ball was replaced twice in the first half while Mijatovic was forced off with a knee injury and Vladimir Jugovic could have been sent off for kicking out at Jones.
Shortly after the break the Egyptian referee did flourish a card, to Perica Ogjenovic for diving after he was challenged by Mike Burns in the penalty area. Given the unpenalised dives by Saudi, Bulgarian and Mexican players in recent days it seemed harsh as there was some contact, but Ogjenovic had made a meal of the tackle.
Yugoslavia, with an eye on the second round, withdrew Stankovic and Stojkovic, which allowed Dejan Savicevic to play his first World Cup game since representing the old Yugoslavia at Italia 90. Though his impact was muted, there were flashes of his brilliance but, like the team, he was saving himself for the sterner tests to come.
UNITED STATES (3-5-2): Friedel (Liverpool); Burns (New England Revolution), Dooley (Columbus Crew), Regis (Karlsruhe); Hejduk (Tampa Bay Mutiny), Stewart (NAC Breda), Reyna (VfL Wolfsburg), Maisonneuve (Columbus Crew), Jones (Los Angeles Galaxy); McBride (Columbus Crew), Moore (New England Revolution). Substitutes: Radosavljevic (Kansas City Wizards) for Moore, 58; Wynalda (San Jose Clash) for Hejduk, 64; Balboa (Colorado Rapids) for Dooley, 82.
YUGOSLAVIA (4-3-1-2): Kralj (Partizan Belgrade); Komljenovic (Duisburg), Djorovic (Celta Vigo), Mihajlovic (Sampdoria), Petrovic (Urawa Red Diamonds); Stankovic (Red Star Belgrade), Jokanovic (Tenerife), Jugovic (Lazio); Stojkovic (Nagoya Grampus Eight); Milosevic (Real Zaragoza), Mijatovic (Real Madrid). Substitutes: Ognjenovic (Red Star Belgrade) for Mijatovic, 31; Brnovic (Espanyol) for Stankovic, 54; Savicevic (Milan) for Stojkovic, 63.
Referee: G Ghandour (Egypt).