USA 3, Kazakhstan 1

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Strong Start: United States 3, Kazakhstan 1

The United States set the right tone in their inaugural ISF Socca6 World Cup, recording a 3-1 victory over touted Kazakhstan in Lisbon today.

Both squads began a bit tentatively, though Kazakhstan enjoyed the better of the possession. They were rewarded in the 5th, when Alexander Chepukavichus put them ahead of the Americans 1-0.

Then in the 16th, Mo Salama (Sporting AZ FC) slid to prevent a shot in the Team USA box, but was whistled for an incidental handball. Goalkeeper Andrew Weber (Sporting AZ FC) saved the ensuing penalty to keep the match close.

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Team USA settled after that, with the chemistry of the Arizona-based squad showing through. Weber found club teammate Dom Papa open down the left side with a long throw. Papa one-timed his backheel touch to Scott Crandall (Small Goal Soccer), who took one look at the net and buried his try without breaking stride.

In the second half, the Americans faced increased pressure from the Kazakhstan side, but found the eventual match-winner via set piece. Crandall expertly lifted his corner kick to the back post where Salama leapt over his defender to power a header into the net.

Small Goal Soccer’s Andy Szerlag made the most of his appearance, forcing Kazakhstan into a poor pass that was broken up by Papa and tapped back to Szerlag. Szerlag carried the ball half the length of the pitch before spying Jon Guse (Sporting AZ FC) making an unmarked parallel run. Szerlag’s through ball was deflected by a defender, but Guse pounced, and put a low shot past the oncoming goalkeeper.

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Kazakhstan pulled out the stops after that, generating several attacks, but the compact Team USA defense held strong for the 3-1 result.

The United States next face Group E opponents Slovakia, at 6 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. PDT, tomorrow, September 25. All Team USA match streams can be found on specialty broadcaster mycujoo.

Kyle Kepner