Kieran Richardson struck a dream double on his debut to give England victory.
Manchester United's 20-year-old winger, who ended the season on loan at West Brom, made a spectacular entry with a stunning free-kick after four minutes.
He swept home a low finish two minutes before half-time before going off after the break with a hamstring injury.
The USA troubled England's defence, with Landon Donovan hitting an upright in the first-half before Clint Dempsey headed home after 78 minutes.
England's unfamiliar line-up - with Alan Smith drafted in as a late replacement for Peter Crouch - got off to a dream start courtesy of Richardson.
The youngster showed great confidence to step forward and curl a free-kick beyond Kasey Keller into the top corner from 20 yards after Eddie Pope fouled Andrew Johnson.
The strike did not deter a spirited USA side, and they were unlucky not to equalise in the 19th minute, when England goalkeeper David James horribly misjudged Donovan's angled free-kick and was relieved to see it rebound to safety off an upright.
England almost took advantage of the reprieve to double their lead seconds later when Joe Cole cut inside and forced a diving save from Keller.
Donovan had the USA's best chance to equalise nine minutes before the interval when Josh Wolff headed neatly into his path inside the area, but he dragged the finish wastefully wide.
England had lived dangerously in the opening period, but struck a crucial blow as Richardson added his second after 43 minutes.
Johnson and Cole combined on the edge of the area and Richardson arrived to shoot low past Keller.
England made an enforced change at half-time, giving a debut to Fulham's Zat Knight, who replaced Sol Campbell after he suffered an ankle injury.
The second half was a low-key affair, but England's squad, stretched to breaking point by injuries and absences, suffered two more blows early on.
Two-goal hero Richardson limped off with a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Phil Neville.
Arsenal defender Ashley Cole then suffered a similar problem after 62 minutes, forcing Eriksson to reshuffle, moving Neville to left-back and sending on Jermain Defoe.
Wolff was the USA's liveliest attacker, and more intelligent movement created an opening for Steve Ralston, but the finish was poor.
England then introduced a third debutant, with Charlton's Luke Young sent on for the tireless Johnson.
The USA's persistence deserved reward, and they got it when Dempsey gave them hope with 12 minutes left.
Donovan's cross found Fulham's Carlos Bocanegra unmarked, and when his effort rebounded off James, Dempsey headed home from eight yards.
James showed more eccentricities to worry England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson before the final whistle, but they held out for the win.
USA: Keller, Cherundolo, Gibbs, Pope (Bocanegra 73), Vanney, Ralston, Zavagnin, Dempsey (Simms 90), McBride (Casey 82), Donovan, Wolff.
Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Berhalter, Spector, Convey.
Booked: Pope, Gibbs.
Goals: Dempsey 79.
England: James, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Brown, Campbell (Knight 45), Joe Cole (Defoe 63), Carrick, Jenas, Richardson (Neville 59), Andrew Johnson (Young 76), Smith.
Subs Not Used: Green, Crouch, Carson.
Booked: Ashley Cole.
Goals: Richardson 4, 43.
Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico).