When Isaac Kissi was selected by Club Deportivo Chivas USA in the Major League Soccer Super Draft back in 2010, he figured he was truly on his way to something special.
He was right, too. Not about the soccer part necessarily; he never did play in MLS. But when it comes to how things worked out off the pitch, he was definitely correct.
Kissi left the University of Dayton following his senior season of 2009 with big-time soccer dreams, buoyed by his third-round MLS draft status. He instead ended up in Rochester that summer, playing professionally for the Rhinos and setting the table of life for what has become his home.
While the MLS dream never materialized, Kissi is still kicking the ball on the pitch while also making an impact off it as a nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital’s neurosurgical unit.
The 30-year-old native of Brong-Ahafo, Ghana, is back playing soccer in the city of Rochester, this time as a striker for the Rochester Lancers of the National Premier Soccer League. Kissi scored his first goal of the season on Sunday, giving the Lancers a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute and they soared to a 3-0 victory over the Fort Pitt Regiment on Charlie Schiano Sr. Field at Aquinas Institute.
Kissi also set up the second goal, scored by Will Stone in the 43rd minute, before Rafael Godoi provided the clincher in the 61st minute as the Lancers evened their record at 2-2-1.
Since altering their playing system, switching from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 to take advantage of depth at striker, the Lancers are 2-0-1 and have outscored opponents 6-1.
Part of that depth includes Kissi, a powerful 6-foot-1, 205-pound presence up front.
“He’s a big, strong man,” Lancers coach Doug Miller said.
Kissi provides so much more than just skills with the ball and physicality in the box, however. He’s a big brother to his mostly younger teammates.
“The coaches want me to set a tone for the guys to learn,” Kissi said. “If that’s all I can contribute, I’m more than happy to do that. But it was nice to score a goal today.”
Said Miller: “He gives us a lot of maturity and experience playing at the level he has played at. He can show our guys the mentality of what it takes to play as a professional. He can mentor guys like Will Stone and Lukas Fernandes.”
He’s contributing even more away from the game. Kissi earned his degree in nursing from the University of Rochester in May 2016 and now works in the neurosurgery department at Strong Memorial Hospital.
“He’s putting his passion to use in his real job and still gets to play soccer,” Miller said.
It’s the perfect combination, Kissi believes. As a nurse, there can be so many rewarding experiences. But at times there are also difficult circumstances. Life happens. So does death.
“Nursing can be very challenging,” he said. “It plays with your head sometimes. Soccer is a good getaway. It gives the soul something to cheer about.”
Kissi decided to pursue a nursing degree after Rochester became his soccer home. Goodness knows he spent enough time at Strong as a patient, undergoing surgery twice on his left knee due to a meniscus issue. Both procedures were performed in 2011.
“After the second one the doctors were telling me ‘You will not be able to play again,’ ” Kissi recalled. “They said it’s going to be bone-on-bone, you’re going to have chronic pain.”
He decided to endure. He has played for FC Buffalo and then joined the Lancers predecessor, the Rochester RiverDogz, last summer.
Along the way, he completed his degree.
“I love the sciences,” Kissi said, “I love taking care of people.”
He’s also taken quite a liking to the region. He makes his home in Gates and in mid-May became a United States citizen.
“I love it here,” he said. “It’s a good family setting.”