By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
The way warm-ups were going, Isaac Kissi was wondering what he was even doing on the pitch of Charlie Schiano Sr. Field at Marina Auto Stadium. The magic in those feet had somehow betrayed him. “I couldn’t get anything on target,” he said.
The one consolation: He wasn’t in the Rochester Lancers’ starting lineup for Sunday evening’s National Premier Soccer League game against Syracuse FC. But when it came time for coach Doug Miller to insert Kissi into the lineup via substitution to start the second half, the razzle-dazzle was back — in a big way. Having watching a scoreless first half, Kissi made a huge impact by setting goals for Rafael Godoi and Lukas Fernandes before scoring one of his own — all in the first 25 minutes he played.
“The guy’s an animal,” Fernandes said. “He’s a guy who’s always motivated, and he’s motivated because he has a love for Rochester.” Godoi scored again before the match ended and the Lancers enjoyed 4-0 Father’s Day victory, improving to 3-2-2 through seven games of their 12-game NPSL schedule.
Kissi is a travel registered nurse in Syracuse, so his availability with the Lancers is based on his work schedule. He usually can’t make it to mid-week training sessions. So on a hot, humid day like Sunday, Miller knew he couldn’t use his talented striker for a full game. “He’s not match fit to play 90 minutes,” Miller said.
Kissi eagerly accepts his role, though. “I knew coming off the bench I could inject some venom,” said Kissi, the former Rochester Rhinos player whose professional career was derailed by knee injuries. “I told them, ‘I can give you guys 30 strong minutes.’ ”
He wasn’t kidding. In the 50th minute, he raced down the right side before sending a cross deep into the box, where Godoi was free to put it home. In the 66th minute, Kissi made a nifty pass up the middle to Fernandes, who attacked from the top of the box and was able to sneak a shot past goalkeeper Josh Mahr. “We love playing with him, we love playing off of him,” said Fernandes, who will be heading into his junior on the Temple University team. “He loves helping us young guys.”
Kissi also still likes to put on a show, and he saved his best for his goal in the 70th minute. A long pass sailed toward him as he sprinted down the right side, and he deftly made a back-heel volley, sending it over his head and dropping it perfectly about 10 feet ahead of him so he could keep running right into it. From there, he attacked from the corner toward the net, faking inside before darting down to the end line to rid himself of defender Milan Jakovljovic. He then drove a ball toward the front that caromed off bodies in front and into the net for his team-leading third goal (in just four games).
“I had to bring in a Rhinos throw-back,” a smiling Kissi said of his airborne volley to himself. “Then once I got him in the corner, the channel by the line was open so I just took it.” The goal was pure beauty. “He’d still be playing as a pro if he hadn’t gotten hurt,” Miller said. “He’s a seasoned pro, whereas a lot of these guys are trying to be pros.” James Lepetit made his fourth consecutive start in goal and posted his second shutout.
The Lancers play twice on the road next weekend: at Buffalo at 7 p.m. Friday and at Erie at 2 p.m. Sunday. They’re home again on June 30 when Miller will play at regulation match for the first time at the downtown soccer stadium.