Terry leads English past USA
© AFP

John Terry finally had something to smile about as he marked his return as England captain with a goal in Wednesday's 2-0 friendly win over the United States.

Just seven days ago Terry was inconsolable after his penalty miss cost Chelsea the UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United.

But Fabio Capello gave the defender a much-needed boost by handing him the skipper's armband for the first time since September and he responded by heading England's first half opener at Wembley.

Terry is desperate to regain the England captaincy on a permanent basis after watching Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand lead the team in Capello's first two matches. So this was the perfect way to stake his claim and wipe away the tears shed in Moscow last week.

Gerrard's strike after the break sealed Capello's second win as England coach, although the Italian must realise there is still plenty of room for improvement after a performance that could be described as workmanlike at best.

Capello insisted this friendly was invaluable to his preparations for next season's FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Yet the sight of numerous empty red seats around Wembley suggested England's fans had little interest in such a low profile match.

He gave Jermain Defoe his first start for nearly two years in a 4-4-2 formation that allowed Wayne Rooney to play a roving role.

Gerrard thought he had opened the scoring with a volleyed finish from David Beckham's free-kick, but referee Kyros Vassaras had already whistled play dead before the ball was delivered.

Capello's pre-match demand for more English spirit from his players suggested he has already realised that perspiration rather than inspiration will be the defining factor for a squad short on pace and lacking a genuine playmaker.

Rooney is the only player capable of filling England's creative void and Capello has asked the Manchester United forward to be more selfish and forget about wasting energy on defensive chores.

He linked up well with Defoe at times but it was the Portsmouth forward who wasted a chance to open the scoring when he steered Gerrard's cross wide from close-range.

Terry rises
That was a rare moment's cohesion from England and it was no surprise that it took a set-piece to break the deadlock. Beckham's value to England in recent years has been measured mostly in his quality from dead balls and he delivered once again here.

The LA Galaxy midfielder, who was presented with a golden cap by Sir Bobby Charlton to mark his 100th appearance in England's last match, whipped in a perfect 38th minute free-kick and Terry stooped to power a header past Tim Howard from near the penalty spot.

That was Beckham's last contribution as David Bentley replaced him at half-time.

Bob Bradley's lacklustre visitors finally threatened when Eddie Johnson drove a fierce strike just wide early in the second half.

Defoe shot straight at substitute keeper Brad Guzan moments later but England didn't have to wait long for a second goal.

Gareth Barry's sublime pass sent Gerrard clear on goal in the 59th minute and the Liverpool midfielder - who might well be playing alongside Barry next season at Liverpool - calmly slotted his shot past Guzan.