While Jordan Rhodes was nodding in his fine debut goal at Easter Road last night, some 4300 miles away from his native Edinburgh Kenny Miller was leading the line for 81 fruitless minutes on his first start for new MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps, as they went down tamely, 2-0 at home to FC Dallas.
The temptation for visitors to Easter Road to feel they had witnessed a changing of the guard – that elusive moment where a manager is forced to recognise that the effectiveness of an excellent, long-serving player is starting to wane and the team would be better served by promoting from the new generation – must have been huge, but in all likelihood it was entirely illusory. Craig Levein is a man who knows his own mind and having stated both before and after the match that Miller would start the nation's first home qualifier against Serbia next month it would be a huge surprise to everyone if it was Rhodes, and not the Vancouver striker, who took to the field at Hampden on September 8.
There is, of course, a third option, where the two men are paired together in the same starting line-up. But although Miller has been used off the front periodically through his career – he played efficiently behind Rudy Gestede for Cardiff City in last season's Carling Cup final against Liverpool – the Scotland manager's preferred 4-5-1 shape leaves little wriggle room and in all likelihood Rhodes will have to settle for the role of impact substitute.
There is a case for playing Rhodes from the start but at it isn't an open and shut one. Both men boast good movement and work rate, but where Miller has the edge in terms of pace – Rhodes is a strong runner but lacks the flaring acceleration of the 32-year-old – the younger man may be the more reliable finisher, whether it is with his head or either foot. No-one who has watched the 40 goals he scored for Huddersfield last season – plus eight in eight games for the under-21s – would have been surprised to see him on the scoresheet on Wednesday night, while Miller, who has scored 16 goals in his 60 international caps to date, is a streaky player capable both of going on excellent scoring bursts and long barren spells such as the one he endured at Cardiff last season.
In itself, playing in the MLS is hardly a black mark – the 32-year-old LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane led the line for the Republic of Ireland in Euro 2012 – but the very distance involved in travelling makes Miller appear more remote from the Scotland set-up.
For the record, he is in no mood to give up his first-team place just yet – even if he admitted last night that this qualifying campaign will be his last. "This will probably be my last campaign, and what better way to finish it off than with a World Cup in Brazil," Miller told whitecapsfc.com. "We're hoping this World Cup qualifying can be the time we end the long, barren spell. When you start out as an international player, you want to make it to a finals, whether it be a Euros or a World Cup."
Miller, for one, feels his experience can still be a vital commodity. "It's about being clever," Miller said. "When you're 19, 20, 21, 22, you can run all day and you don't have to worry about picking and choosing your runs, but sometimes you're exerting energy that you don't need to. It's knowing when to go long, when to come short, how to link up and help your team-mates, recognising situations in a game when you need to be in a certain area."
Who to play in attack is not the only conundrum facing the Scotland manager in the next few days. In all likelihood, injury to Allan McGregor will mean a start for either Matt Gilks, David Marshall or Cammy Bell, while Phil Bardsley's absence from the left-back role opens a door for either Danny Fox or even Miller's Vancouver team-mate Barry Robson.
There were reminders that Gary Caldwell is a reliable performer in the holding midfield role, should Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown and James McArthur fail to return to full fitness, while Shaun Maloney, Robert Snodgrass and Ross McCormack also did themselves no harm on Wednesday. But the real question for Levein to ponder is deciding when Miller time is officially deemed to have come to an end.