The first half of Tuesday night's CONCACAF Gold Cup match between the United States and Costa Rica at Gillette Stadium reflected the safe passage of each side into the second phase with an open commitment to attack resulting in few quality chances.
The United States sealed first place in Group A with an uneventful 0-0 draw. The home nation advanced as group winners on goal differential, leaving Costa Rica to face Group A winners Honduras on Saturday at Gillette Stadium at 1 p.m. ET.
USA will face either Jamaica, South Africa or Mexico from Group C in the quarterfinals at Gillette Stadium at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The first true opportunity of the match went to Costa Rica, as Oscar Rojas just missed U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller's left hand post with a rasping drive after 10 minutes.
New England's Clint Dempsey, deployed up top with due to the tournament-ending injury to Conor Casey, almost connected with Revs teammate Pat Noonan in the 33rd minute. His pass beat the defense, but Costa Rican 'keeper Jose Francisco Porras claimed the ball at Noonan's feet.
The best chance of the half fell to Dempsey two minutes later. Streaking down the left hand side after good combination work, his left-footed attempt went right to Porras.
Both sides wanted to go forward in the second stanza, but neither could find the right combination to consistently create dangerous chances.
U.S. head coach Bruce Arena sent on Los Angeles forward Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, and Kansas City forward Josh Wolff in the second half to spark the offense, but they could not spark the Americans to a finale.
Dempsey nearly opened the score line after 73 minutes, but his curling drive from 22 yards just missed wide of the right post.
Frankie Hedjuk -- who made up three-fourths of an MLS back line along with Chicago's Tony Sanneh and Kansas City's Jimmy Conrad -- picked up a caution for simulation in the 86th minute, ruling him out of Saturday's quarterfinal matchup against the third-placed qualifier in Group C.
"It was a good game," said United States head coach Bruce Arena. "Both teams played well. There were not a lot of chances in the game. It was played at a high pace. Both teams could have sat back because they had qualified for the second round, but they didn't. I thought we had a good second half. Our fault was that we did not take our chances."
D.C.'s Ben Olsen, New England's Steve Ralston and Chicago's Chris Armas each played the full 90 for the U.S., while L.A.'s Michael Umaña did the same for Costa Rica.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
USA (4-4-2) - Kasey Keller (capt); Frankie Hedjuk, Jimmy Conrad, Tony Sanneh, Steve Cherundolo; Ben Olsen, Chris Armas; John O'Brien (DaMarcus Beasley 58'), Steve Ralston; Pat Noonan (Landon Donovan 66'), Clint Dempsey (Josh Wolff 78')
Costa Rica (4-4-2) - Jose Francisco Porras; Roy Miller, Michael Umana, Victor Cordero, Harold Wallace; Dany Fonseca, Jafet Soto (Bryan Ruiz 76'), Jose Luis Lopez (Douglas Sequeira 67'), Steven Bryce; Victor Cordero, Randall Brenes (Christian Bolanos 62')
CR - Oscar Rojas (caution) 25'
CR - Christian Bolanos (caution) 78'
USA - Frankie Hedjuk (caution) 87'
Referee: Benito Archundia;
Referee's Assistants: Pedro Rebollar, Arturo Velasquez
4th Official: Jose Pineda
Weather: Sunny, 71 degrees