Faced with a selection dilemma at striker after Conor Casey tore his ACL in Thursday's 4-1 victory against Cuba, U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena turned to New England Revolution teammates Clint Dempsey and Pat Noonan to combine as his forward duo in Tuesday night's scoreless draw against Costa Rica.
The draw sealed top spot in the group for the USA on goal differential, but the night was not as successful as Dempsey and Noonan would have hoped, playing on their home ground.
Dempsey was active in the offensive third, creating chances but failing to finish when presented the opportunity. Noonan served as his foil with hard running off the ball. Each was substituted, with Landon Donovan replacing Noonan after 66 minutes and Josh Wolff taking Dempsey off in the 78th minute.
"I felt all right. I think we were lackluster offensively," said Noonan. "We couldn't get much going."
Said Dempsey: "I was supposed to score, but I didn't. I need to do a better job of scoring the ball."
Noonan noted that Dempsey's deployment at striker, a new position for him at the international level, did not affect his play in the match.
"Clint and I have played together with the Revs," said Noonan. "There are no excuses. We worked hard, but we were a little off in the final third."
Arena was frank in his assessment of the performance of all three Revolution starters, as Steve Ralston went 90 minutes at right midfield in addition to the forward pairing of Dempsey and Noonan.
"I thought Ralston had another good game," said Arena. "Noonan has struggled for us in the past few games. I think he's hampered a little bit by an injury. Dempsey is an unfinished product. This is his second professional season and he doesn't have the experience yet. He needs to be moved along."
Noonan dismissed any notions that injuries provide an excuse for a lack of goals.
"I hurt my ankle earlier in the week," said Noonan. "I can deal with it. That's not an excuse."
Ralston was pleased with the offensive creativity in the first stanza, but disappointed with the quality in the second half.
"In the second half, I think we lost our sharpness," said Ralston. "Our final cross and final pass was not there. We had a couple of good chances in the first half, but in the second half, we were very sloppy."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.