By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
Isaac Kissi was supposed to be done playing competitive soccer seven years ago, when injuries wreaked havoc inside his left knee.
But here he is at 31, still on the pitch, still powering his way into the box, still finding ways with his head and feet to put the ball in the net.
“I’m trying to play as much as I can as long as these wheels hold up,” Kissi said on Sunday evening, after scoring the second goal for the Rochester Lancers in a 2-2 NPSL tie with the Erie Commodores FC.
The draw in the home opener at Charlie Schiano Field at Marina Auto Stadium gave the Lancers an 0-1-1 record through two games of their 12-game season. They’re home again next Sunday at 5 p.m. against FC Buffalo.
Kissi hopes to be right in the middle of the action again. But it’s not as simple as showing up and having coach Doug Miller put him in the lineup. His availability is based on his work schedule.
A native of Ghana, Kissi is a travel registered nurse for Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. In some ways, his position in the hospital is a lot like it is in soccer; he goes where he’s needed. He’s assigned to the “float” pool, meaning he could be at one of two facilities in any number of departments, from cardiac to thoracic to intensive care to the emergency department.
“Wherever they need me is where I’ll be,” he said.
His knee injury had a lot to do with what he does now, he said. Back in 2011, after tests were conducted, he was told his soccer career was over.
“I didn’t like the way they told me,” he said. “They came in and just said ‘You can’t play anymore,’ and they left.”
He figured there needed to be some sort of compassion. So you can bet his bedside manner is a whole lot more pleasant than what he experienced.
Kissi came to the United States in 2007 on a soccer scholarship to play at the University of Dayton. He was drafted by Chivas USA but never played in Major League Soccer, instead landing with the Rochester Rhinos for three seasons.
So Sunday was a bit of a homecoming. While he played in five games with the Lancers last summer when Aquinas Institute was home, the downtown soccer stadium was his playground while with the Rhinos.
His goal, into a net he’d scored into before in front of fans who watched him before, gave the Lancers a 2-1 lead in the 71st minute. He volleyed a perfect header into the net off a corner kick by Rafael Godoi.
“It came from old experience and the old turf,” he said with a smile.
Kissi’s years-ago stint with the Rhinos paved the way to where he is now — especially off the field. He earned a nursing degree from the University of Rochester in 2016 and had been working in the neurosurgery department at Strong Memorial Hospital before moving into his current role. In May of 2017 he became a U.S. citizen.
He works 12-hour shifts, usually three days in a row with three in a row off. When the off days coincide with Lancers games, or practice, he’ll be driving to Rochester.
“If I’m not working the weekend and they’re playing, I’ll be there,” he said. “I appreciated what Doug is doing (by accommodating his schedule). I wish I could do more for the team.”
Miller isn’t concerned that Kissi won’t be at every training session or game.
“He’s a pro,” Miller said. “He can come out and do this without training because he’s a true professional.
“He gives us a different dimension when he’s here. He can hold the ball up, he can score. You wish you had more Isaac Kissis.”