There was no point pretending it was anything like scoring the winning penalty for Chelsea in the Champions League final, but last night his goal for England at least told John Terry that despair in football never lasts forever. Only the marble-hearted would have begrudged Terry the first of England's two goals, as he set off on that long road to redemption that began in Moscow last week.
There is nothing quite like getting straight back on the horse after a fall and Terry did enough last night, on the first occasion Fabio Capello has given him the captaincy, to make the decision on who gets the job permanently a tricky one for the Italian. Terry threw himself onto the end of David Beckham's free-kick in the 38th minute as if it was a goal to win the European Cup rather than a friendly against a strangely insipid United States team in front of a Wembley crowd amusing themselves with a Mexican wave.
Terry will not be making the trip to Trinidad with the rest of the squad today, and neither will six others from United and Chelsea who played the game in Moscow last week. It is understood that Rio Ferdinand, who has family connections with the island, and Wayne Bridge, who was not even on the bench for the Champions League final, are the two from that contingent who will be on the trip. With typical secrecy, Capello would not even disclose who will be in the squad for Sunday's game against Trinidad and Tobago.
It is virtually certain that Wayne Rooney will not be making the trip to the Caribbean and he almost went out with a bang last night with two wince-inducing challenges that would have earned him two bookings at the very least in the Premier League. Capello did ask his striker to be more selfish before the game although presumably that did not include collecting the limbs of opponents as trophies. Rooney's England goalscoring record that now stands at 14 in 43 games is not looking too clever either.
United have denied the reports that Rooney may yet have to undergo surgery this summer on a problem that could be related to the hip injury he picked up late in the season. After that he will embark on what could well be the mother of all stag weekends before his wedding this summer. The challenges on Ricardo Clark and Frankie Hejduk, the second of which he was booked for, are all the evidence that Rooney's claims to have got his temper under control might just be overstated.
Steven Gerrard scored the second goal having been passed around the midfield like the spare chair – starting on the left wing, moving to the centre and back again. It was a midfield that looked distinctly like a tribute to the Sven Goran Eriksson era: David Beckham, Frank Lampard and Gerrard all thrown into the mix and asked to make it work. No matter how much these England managers try to move on from the so-called golden generation they always seem to go back to them in the end.
This was Beckham's 101st cap for England and he was cheered to the roof when, before the match, the Football Association gave him a commemorative gold cap to mark the 100th in Paris in March in what looked like a presentation fish tank. Rooney jokingly suggested to him that he hold it above his head like a proper cup. Don't laugh, for this team any trophy will do.
Gerrard must have thought the end to the season could not have got any worse when he watched Manchester United win the Champions League; then he saw the teamsheet last night with his name on the left side of midfield. It begs the question: where next for the Liverpool captain? Eriksson played him as a centre-forward, Steve McClaren shoved him out to the right, Capello has played him up front and now, at 28 and with 66 caps, he is asked to play in a position with which he is completely unfamiliar. It is enough to make a man think about retiring from international football. Gerrard could have sulked but, to his credit, he instead made the best of a potentially disastrous night by spraying the ball from the centre of midfield when he could creep in there. In attack, the Rooney-Jermain Defoe axis was patchy at best, the Portsmouth man sprinting away from his strike partner every time Rooney got the ball in hope of being delivered the perfect pass. Defoe should have done better when he connected with Gerrard's cross from the left on 34 minutes.
The United States' major mistake was giving away dangerous free-kicks around their penalty area and, eventually it was Beckham who unlocked the visitors' defence. It is undoubtedly the reason that Capello keeps him around and the bad news for David Bentley is it looks like he could be doing it for years to come.
Beckham won the free-kick on the right and dropped it on the head of Terry who scored from a good 14 yards. Yes, the marking was poor, so poor that it was unclear exactly who should have been picking him up but the Chelsea captain still did well to place his header far enough away from Tim Howard to beat him.
By the time Gerrard scored on 59 minutes, Capello had dispatched Gareth Barry to the left side to relieve him and it was the Aston Villa man who hit a peach of a ball through the United States defence – and at an angle – to meet the run of his fellow midfielder. It will certainly not do Barry any harm in currying favour with the club captain should he make the move to Anfield this summer. Gerrard tucked the ball past the substitute United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Gerrard did not stay in the centre, he was swapped with Barry by Capello when he brought Peter Crouch on in place of Defoe. The Portsmouth striker had missed two decent chances by then – the second fashioned when he turned and spun – and, given the standard of the opposition, might have made more of an impact. Rooney finally got himself booked for that awful challenge on substitute Hejduk and was replaced soon after. You could think of better ways for him to end the season.
England (4-4-2): James (Portsmouth); Brown (Manchester United), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), A Cole (Chelsea); Beckham (LA Galaxy), Hargreaves (Manchester United), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool); Rooney (Manchester United), Defoe (Portsmouth). Substitutes: Bentley (Blackburn) for Beckham , h-t, Barry (Aston Villa) for Lampard, 58, Johnson (Portsmouth) for Brown, 58, Crouch (Liverpool) for Defoe, 68, J Cole (Chelsea) for Rooney, 79, Bridge (Chelsea) for A Cole, 82.
USA (4-4-2): Howard (Everton); Cherundolo (Hannover), Onyewu (Standard Liege), Bocanegra (Fulham), Pearce (Hansa Rostock); Dempsey (Fulham), -Bradley (Heerenveen), Clark (Houston Dynamo), Beasley (Rangers); Johnson (Fulham), Wolff (1860 Munich). Substitutes: Guzan (gk, Chivas USA) for Howard, h-t, Hedjuk (Columbus Crew) for Cherundolo, h-t. Lewis (Derby County) for Beasley, 68, Adu (Benfica) for Wolff, 68, Edu (Toronto) for Clark, 78, Jaqua (unattached) for Johnson.
Referee: K Vassaras (Greece).