U.S.- Costa Rica prediction for tonight, and where a bit of creeping self-doubt can be a good thing

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – History has taught us that the best U.S. national team performances have arrived when the Americans feel backed into a tough spot.

The big disappointments – think “Ghana,” and then “Ghana” again – have often arrived when the team begins feeling good about itself.

I have this theory that as the United States talent pool gradually improved, the team lost a little bit of the gritty element that got it through the 1990s and pushed it forward in the early part of the 2000s. It lost a little bit of that useful chip-on-shoulder effect.

Past U.S. versions knew they had to try harder. Unblessed with a superior first touch or the collective soccer brain to think three moves ahead rather than two, the boys in star-striped blue or red (or that awful denim) had to close the gap through heart, hustle and a stubborn competitiveness. And also through that most quintessential of American values, that optimistic, unbreakable belief that good things were ahead.

You only have to spend a little bit of time in other lands to gain perspective on the U.S. virtue of heady expectation. There are plenty of countries where the populace really does sit around and wait for the next bad thing to happen.

That brings us to tonight’s match at DSG Park in Commerce City. U.S. backs against the wall? Yeah, I’d say we are there.

Feeling the weight of it all, the pressure to get the job done tonight against Costa Rica amid the team’s first real test of locker room accord since the days of Steve Sampson, John Harkes, Eric Wynalda, etc.? That seems reasonable as an assessment.

So I wonder if a little bit of creeping self-doubt isn’t a good thing? I wonder if the players don’t rally a little bit around the unrest?

I chatted yesterday with Ian Darke, who will call tonight’s game for ESPN (10 p.m. ET).  We agreed that Brian Straus’ Sporting News piece – the best piece of American soccer reporting in a long, long time, in my opinion – might just be a good thing for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.

Straus certainly didn’t make any of that stuff up; players were saying it.

Well, you want that stuff in the open, ready to be mopped up and dealt with. Better that than whispered around certain corners of the locker room, like so much toxic sludge, slowly rotting the floors, so to speak.

It may have made some people mad (like Michael Bradley – and good for him for adding a counter-balance and saying things that needed to be said.) And perhaps Klinsmann will understand that some of his communication methods may need a re-think.

In the end, the team might just be better for it.  We’ll know more in a little while.

I say it will help. I say the U.S. back line will get lots of protection and will dig in accordingly, stubbornly rather than nervously. The fullbacks will be aggressive in moving forward, but not wildly so.

Michael Bradley will be cautious, also endeavoring to protect a weakened defense.

The United States will find a goal … but perhaps not multiple goals.

I’m calling a 1-0 U.S. win.

Watch Live: Brighton and Hove Albion vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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Paulo Gazzaniga is between the sticks for Tottenham Hotspur as the North Londoners attempt to end a three-match losing skid on Saturday at Brighton and Hove Albion (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s the 26-year-old’s first start for Spurs since blanking Crystal Palace on Nov. 5, 2017.

Dele Alli is on the bench for Spurs, as Heung-Min Son gets a start.

LINEUPS

Brighton and Hove Albion: Ryan, Montoya, Dunk, Duffy, Bong, Stephens, Propper, Bissouma, Knockaert, Murray, March. Subs: Button, Balogun, Kayal, Jahanbakhsh, Locadia, Andone.

Tottenham Hotspur: Gazzaniga, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Dier, Dembele, Eriksen, Lucas, Son, Kane. Subs: Whiteman, Aurier, Sanchez, Wanyama, Winks, Lamela, Dele.

Pulisic nabs equalizer for 10-man Dortmund (video)

AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
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Borussia Dortmund was down a goal, then a man.

Fortunately, Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic are wearing black and yellow.

[ WATCH: Pogba’s otherworldly assist ]

BVB came back for a point after Abdou Diallo was shown red with 15 minutes to play in Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Pulisic then showed his supreme poacher’s instincts when Reus slid a ball into the six with six minutes plus stoppage to go at Rhein-Neckar Arena.

It’s Pulisic’s second goal in the week of his 20th birthday, having scored against Club Brugge in the Champions League at midweek.

Joelinton scored for Hoffenheim. The Pulisic goal and red card offense are below.

PL AT HALF: Stars shining across six 10 a.m. ET kickoffs

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We’ve seen goals, goals, goals across five of six Premier League matches which kicked off at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.

[ MORE: Fulham draw Watford ]

There’s a lone nil-nil in the bunch, and that one’s offered promise of finish as well.

Manchester United 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers

A sensational first touch pass from Paul Pogba (see above) and a low drive from Fred have the Red Devils leading at Old Trafford.

Leicester City 1-1 Huddersfield Town

The struggling Terriers took a surprising early lead, but Kelechi Iheanacho had the score line before the break.

Liverpool 3-0 Southampton

The Saints were unable to use Liverpool loanee Danny Ings, and the attack is struggling to do anything while the Reds have goals from a Xherdan Shaqiri-prodded own goal for Wesley Hoedt and a follow-up marker from center back Joel Matip.

Mohamed Salah scored in stoppage time after a Liverpool free kick rang off the cross bar and bounced on the goal line for the Egyptian to deposit in the goal.

Cardiff City 0-3 Manchester City

Moments after Cardiff nearly found a shocking way into the champions’ goal, it was Sergio Aguero who restored order for Manchester City. Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan added goals before halftime.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Newcastle United

Chances for both sides at Selhurst Park, though the Eagles are holding control of it.

Burnley 2-0 Bournemouth

Matej Vydra and Aaron Lennon score two minutes apart to give Turf Moor a delightful halftime break.

Watch Live: Man United, Man City, Liverpool in action at 10am ET

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Six Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United all in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Let’s see if the big boys can rotate their squads expertly after UEFA Champions League action a few days ago.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Cardiff City vs. Manchester City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Wolves – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]