WEMBLEY, England — David Beckham stepped up to the ball and singled out his target, like so many times before at Wembley. If any Americans were still were wondering, he showed what all the fuss back home was about.
Beckham sent a trademark curling free kick with laser precision toward John Terry for the go-ahead goal in the 38th minute, and England outclassed the United States 2-0 in an exhibition game at Wembley.
"That's my job, to get the ball into the right area," Beckham said. "It's J.T.'s job ... to be at the right end of it."
While England may not have been good enough to qualify for the 16-team European Championship next month, it easily dispatched the Americans on the world's most famous soccer field.
Steven Gerrard scored the second goal in the 59th minute off a through-ball from Gareth Barry that exposed the U.S. defense. With 10 minutes to go, England's long-suffering fans were belting out choruses of "God Save the Queen."
The match drew 71,233 to Wembley, the lowest figure in any of England's eight games at the 90,000-capacity arena, which opened in 2007 following years of reconstruction.
The United States, whose five-match unbeaten streak ended, dropped to 2-7 against the English, winning at the 1950 World Cup and in a 1993 exhibition game at Foxborough, Mass. This matchup came three years to the day after England's 2-1 win at Chicago's Soldier Field.
The U.S was coming off a 3-0 win at Poland — a team that did reach Euro 2008 — but ran into a much stronger opponent in the English.
"You've raised the bar a little bit and I think we have to raise the bar ourselves," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said.
Beckham was given a standing ovation before kickoff when he received a golden cap from English great Bobby Charlton in recognition of Beckham's 100th international appearance, in March against France.
Landon Donovan, Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy teammate, missed out on a chance to become the fourth-youngest player with 100 international appearances. The 26-year-old didn't dress because of a tight groin.
"I'm more disappointed with the result. But yeah, it would have been nice," Donovan said, adding he did not sit out to appease the Galaxy. "We all sat down this morning and decided that it wasn't the best thing to do. It didn't have anything to do with them."
The loss began a series of tough tests for Bradley's team ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying against Barbados on June 15. The Americans play next Wednesday at Spain, then face Argentina on June 8 at East Rutherford, N.J.
Fabio Capello, who took over as England's manager after the team failed to qualify for Euro 2008, fielded nearly all his top stars. Beckham only played the first half, but that was enough to give Capello plenty of reassurance that the 33-year-old midfielder remains in contention for World Cup qualifiers in the autumn.
Beckham, who joined the Galaxy last year after starring for Manchester United and Real Madrid, nearly put England ahead in the 11th minute, when Gerrard tapped his free kick past goalkeeper Tim Howard. But Greek referee Kyros Vassaras ordered the kick to be retaken.
Terry, whose missed penalty kick cost Chelsea the European Champions League title last week, scored when he outjumped several defenders inside the penalty area and beat a diving Howard with a powerful header.
Barry, who had just entered the game, created the second goal when his cutting pass to Gerrard caught defender Oguchi Onyewu upfield. Gerrard beat substitute goalkeeper Brad Guzan with a sidefooted shot inside the left post.
The Americans had few good chances at only their second match at Wembley — the first was a 2-0 loss in September 1994.
Eddie Johnson came close to scoring early in the second half, taking a cross inside the penalty area from Heath Pearce and sending a shot just wide of the post.
Eddie Lewis produced another chance in the 80th minute, going past Joe Cole on the right flank and sending a dangerous cross in front of the net that was tipped away by goalkeeper David James.
Freddy Adu, also a second-half substitute, charged the goal toward the end and fired a shot with the right foot — his weaker side — that forced a diving save by James.
"I would've loved for that ball to be on my left foot, but at that moment it was on my right," Adu said. "But I think I took a pretty good shot and it was a good save."
Despite the loss, Adu was thrilled about the chance to play at Wembley.
"Unbelievable. These are the guys I looked up to growing up, so it was unbelievable to be on the same field as them," the 18-year-old said. "I want to be at their level one day, and that's what I'm working toward."