Second-half substitutes Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson scored late goals to seal the victory at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
The first of three pre-World Cup friendlies started brightly for the Americans. Zusi curled a free kick into the penalty area and Azerbaijan goalkeeper Kamran Aghayev saved Chris Wondolowski’s diving header with his knee. Wondolowski again came close 10 minutes later, but his header was parried over the crossbar.
Chances were limited for the U.S. until the 75th minute when Diskerud made the breakthrough. Four minutes after entering the match, the Norwegian-American midfielder finished from close range following a goal line clearance from Azerbaijan’s Elvin Yunuszade.
Johannsson, who entered the match shortly after the hour mark, made it 2-0 in the 81st minute. The Icelandic-American forward headed home off a Brad Davis corner kick for his second international goal.
Besler and Zusi earned their 15th and 21st caps for the U.S., respectively. Besler played the full 90 minutes and Zusi, who occupied right midfield, was replaced by Davis at halftime.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad is 10-1-3 when Besler starts. He partnered Geoff Cameron in central defense, with veteran DaMarcus Beasley starting at left back and Fabian Johnson at right back.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard earned his 53rd international win, tying Kasey Keller’s U.S. record. Captain Clint Dempsey was removed from the lineup just before kickoff because of a sore left groin.
The U.S. Send-Off Series continues Sunday with a friendly against Turkey in Harrison, New Jersey. The Americans then face Nigeria on June 7 in Jacksonville, Florida before travelling to Brazil on June 9 for their seventh consecutive FIFA World Cup appearance.