A late bolt from the red, white and blue by Cobi Jones, the dreadlocked winger who failed to establish himself at Coventry, condemned Scotland to defeat by the United States after they had taken an early lead here yesterday in their penultimate friendly before the European Championship finals.
While the result was an embarrassment for Scotland - their first defeat by the Americans after three previous wins by an aggregate of 11-0 - they will not be unduly concerned given the practice-match atmosphere and the surprisingly good quality of a US team in which John Harkes was a model of industry and invention.
The setting could hardly have been more different from what awaits Scotland at Wembley and Villa Park. Veterans Stadium, part of a leisure complex in the New England sticks, has open stands on either side of the pitch but only trees and a running track behind the goals.
With the temperature in the high 70s, spectators enjoyed barbecues in the car park, much as they do at Falkirk in February, before making the leisurely stroll to the bleachers. The substantial Scottish presence included the obligatory piper and a number of expatriates - among whom Hibernian shirts were clearly de rigueur - who had made the trek from Canada.
Scotland's bright opening, against hosts who stand 13 places above them at 14th in Fifa's world rankings soon brought them to their feet. Gordon Durie, on his first appearance in the national side for two years, had already set up a chance for Scot Gemmill, which Jurgen Sommer smothered well, before scoring himself.
Craig Burley initiated the breakthrough with a pass along the American left to Darren Jackson. When his low cross was turned against the near post by Scott Booth, the ball rebounded obligingly for the Rangers striker to run in his fifth goal for Scotland from barely five yards.
The Scottish flags flapped proudly in the breeze, but in their defence, Derek Whyte was also flapping. Recalled as understudy to Alan McLaren, Whyte was soon exposed by a fine reverse pass from Harkes. Tab Ramos tumbled under his clumsy challenge, allowing the US's record scorer, Eric Wynalda, to collect his 23rd goal in 70 matches from the spot.
Booth, put in by Burley, wasted an opportunity to restore Scotland's advantage, lofting the ball over Sommer and his crossbar. Gary McAllister was even more profligate after the interval. His first contribution after appearing as a substitute was to stab wide after Tom Boyd had laid a Booth centre into his path.
Harkes, the US captain and one of nine players on view who helped to beat England three years ago, revealed playmaking talents not always evident during his sojourns with Sheffield Wednesday and Derby.
A low drive by another half-time replacement, John Collins, then passed inches wide of the left-hand upright, while Scotland might have had a penalty when Mike Burns tugged at Eoin Jess's shirt. But even before the winner arrived, they were living more dangerously than their manager, Craig Brown, would have liked.
The Harkes-Wynalda link, this time manifested in a throw-in from the former that caught the Scots napping, would have put the US ahead by the hour had the latter's shot been marginally lower.
Watched by his Dundee-born, New Jersey-based father, Harkes had a chance to cap his display with a goal of his own. Breaking in the inside-right channel, he tried to beat Jim Leighton on his near-post but slightly misjudged the angle. Unperturbed, he continued probing and, with 18 minutes remaining, had his reward. Taking Harkes' pass 25 yards out, Jones drove his seventh international goal over Leighton's flailing arms to seal a deserved American victory.
Goals: Durie (9) 0-1; Wynalda (13 pen) 1-1; Jones (72) 2-1.
UNITED STATES (4-4-2): Sommer (Queen's Park Rangers); Burns, Lalas (both New England Revolution), Balboa (Colorado Rapids), Agoos (Washington DC United); Jones (Los Angeles Galaxy), Dooley (Schalke 04), Harkes (Washington DC United), Reyna (Bayer Leverkusen); Ramos (New York/New Jersey MetroStars), Wynalda (San Jose Clash). Substitutes: Kirovski (Manchester United) for Dooley, 54; McBride (Columbus Crew) for Reyna, 82.
SCOTLAND (3-5-2): Leighton (Hibernian); Calderwood (Tottenham), Hendry (Blackburn), Whyte (Middlesbrough); Burley (Chelsea), Jackson (Hibernian), Jess (Coventry), Gemmill (Nottingham Forest), Boyd (Celtic); Booth (Aberdeen), Durie (Rangers). Substiutes: McAllister (Leeds United) for Gemmill h-t; Collins (Celtic) for Jackson, h-t; Spencer (Chelsea) for Durie, h-t; McCall (Rangers) for Burley, 60; Walker (Partick Thistle) for Leighton, 81.
Referee: E Brizio-Carter (Mexico).
Bookings: US: Lalas. Scotland: Booth.
Man of the match: Harkes. Attendance: 8,526.Reuse content