The crowd helped pay tribute to the Three Lions' all-time top-scorer and most capped outfield player, and he was just inches away from marking his 120th cap with a memorable goal.
It would have been a dream end to a 3-0 win that saw Southgate juggle honouring Rooney and building for the future, with Callum Wilson - one of three debutants against the USA - completing the scoring after first-half goals from Jesse Lingard and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
But Rooney showed he is not immune to the criticism he has faced as a result of his selection and even claimed it was better he did not score.
"In some ways it's great because if I did score it would have opened another debate about whether that goal should count so in some ways it's probably better it didn't go in," he said.
"The FA are celebrating players who have left their mark on international football for England. It never happened in the past, which it should have. It's a newish FA, newish coaching staff.
"I think it's the right thing to do. It was a great touch for me personally. I asked Harry (Kane) to present me with the award. I'm hoping in 10 years' time I'll be presenting him with one."