SUZANNE Grant deserved to do something special for her 100th Scotland appearance.
A defeat by the United States in Nashville perhaps lacked a certain pizzazz but she was still able to mark the occasion with a goal against the Olympic champions, before swapping shirts with Abby Wambach – who scored on what was her 200th appearance for the States.
Wambach is now on 153 international goals – and just five short of the world record set by her former team-mate Mia Hamm – but containing the striker to just one goal over a two-game trip is a measure of how much the Scots have improved in recent years.
Loading article content
On the only previous occasion the sides met, in Ohio in 2002, the US won 8-2, with Wambach and Hamm both celebrating hat tricks. Yet, despite the huge disparity in status – the hosts are full-time professionals while most of the Scotland squad are amateurs – the aggregate score over the two games was just 7-2, with the Americans winning the first game in Jacksonville 4-1 and then 3-1 at the LP Field.
The scoreline compares favourably with many of those racked up by the US in 2012, when they won 28 of their 32 games and lost only once, to World Cup holders Japan. The matches in Florida and Nashville were watched by almost 35,000 fans, an astonishing number for pre-season friendlies. At the LP Field, Megan Rapinoe, who plays for Champions League holders Lyon, Wambach and Christen Press scored for the hosts before Grant, who came on for Jo Love, volleyed in from Emma Mitchell cross.
"It was a phenomenal experience," said Grant. "I was just delighted to get onto the pitch to win my 100th cap. To reach this milestone against the world No.1 side, and to score against a world-class goalkeeper like Hope Solo, is a great achievement.
"Abby Wambach and I swapped tops at the end and she gave me the bouquet of flowers she had been presented with for her 200th cap. It was great to meet the Fifa world player of the year and have a word with her. It makes it a bit more special that we both reached cap milestones and scored in the same game. That doesn't happen very often and makes it a unique experience for both of us."
Unlike the match in Florida last Saturday, where the Scots looked intimidated in the opening half hour of the contest, the first half was much more even in Nashville. Rapinoe's goal was all that separated the teams, but the United States stepped it up in the second period with Wambach and Press, who also scored two in Florida, making it 3-0 before Grant's goal with nine minutes left.
The last 45 minutes provided rare game time for Scotland's No.2 goalkeeper Shannon Lynn, who came on after the interval for captain Gemma Fay. There were also starts for young central defender Eilish McSorley and midfielder Leanne Ross.
"The girls matched the USA for most of the game," said Grant. "Five or six years ago we wouldn't have been able to take them on in the way we did for long periods. The girls are proud of their performances this week. This is pre-season for us and these are the first matches that most of us have played since October or November.
"If we can play in the manner we did against a team like the USA we know we are going in the right direction. It has been a great trip – we've met some brilliant people and everyone has been so good to us."