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Issey Nakajima-Farran: Canada Not a Priority for MLS

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Issey Nakajima-Farran only spent one year in Major League Soccer, but the way that year played out has given him some opinions on the state of the league and its priorities.

Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports

In Toronto FC's short history, almost 60 players have played ten or less games for the club. Making any sort of meaningful impact in that short of time is almost impossible. Therefore you can count these players on one hand.

For Issey Nakajima-Farran, however, it took him only seven games to earn the hearts of Toronto FC supporters. In just his second game with Toronto he found the back of the net in a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew. Two games after that he had the lone Toronto goal in a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas.

By the time he scored the winner in the penalty shootout against the Vancouver Whitecaps to put Toronto in the Voyageurs Cup final, he was only behind Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe when it came to players on the supporter's lips.

Two days later, on May 16, he was on the supporter's lips for a completely different reason: the most surprising move of the season, which saw him dealt to the Montreal Impact in exchange for Collen Warner. The date was significant, it was Nakajima-Farran's birthday.

"[It] felt like I was coming back to Canada to play football, even in Japan I felt like a foreigner and for the first time I was the local player," Nakajima-Farran tells Waking The Red. "The fans were great with me too which made my move harder to accept."

Supporters were shocked by what remains an unpopular move to this day. It was so bad it forced them into bad dating clichés: at the next game they displayed a banner that said "Sorry Issey, it's not you it's us". Issey took to twitter to call the move "inhumane". He knew Major League Soccer operated differently, but was shocked by how easily players could be traded.

"Every move I've made in my career was a choice and was never forced," Nakajima-Farran said of his career before MLS. "I know I am not the first one to be treated in this way and players have just packed up and [returned] to Europe. How can a player feel as though you're wearing the club's emblem with pride when everyone knows you can be traded the next day?"

He also felt as though he wasn't given nearly enough time to adapt to his new surroundings. He only played seven games with Toronto FC, and felt that Montreal only gave him five. After the first five games he played for Montreal, he only played twice.

"Usually players get a good year or two for them to get settled," said Issey of his frustrations. "I hope the fans will carry on with supporting me and [Canada] through the national team as it seems that's really the only Canadian football."

This is a troubling point for those who are dual fans of Toronto FC and the National Team. Issey may have felt like a local when playing in Toronto, but TFC doesn't feel like a local team. This season only one Canadian, Jonathan Osorio, is expected in the starting lineup. Without question, this is the lowest Canadian contingency in the club's history.

"At the end of the day football is a business and MLS is exploiting the Canadian cities, rather than for Canadians to be developed and represent Canadian teams," said Nakajima-Farran. "There are quality Canadian players who have made a mark abroad who were or are currently unattached and are not getting a sniff from these Canadian teams."

Nakajima-Farran mentioned that Vancouver, who have been pinned by some as a team who "hate Canada", seem to wear Canadian identity on their sleeve. He has noticed a lot of young players from the Vancouver Whitecaps getting first team action and then coming into the Canadian national team camp.

He didn't bring up Montreal, where he spent the majority of his short MLS career, as making Canadians part of their mission statement either. The fact that they cut Nakajima-Farran and waived national team teammate Karl Ouimette might have something to do with that.

As per usual, Nakajima-Farran's departure from Montreal was under frustrating circumstances. His agent told him before a National team game earlier this month that the team was letting him go.

"It was a week before preseason training," said Nakajima-Farran. "It's unfortunate how they do things at that club but it's done. Montreal fans were great to me and I wish I got to say goodbye."

Between being moved from both Toronto and then Montreal in less than a year, there wasn't a lot of consistency for Nakajima-Farran in 2014. Where he did find consistency, however, was with the Canadian national team. Ever since Benito Floro took over as manager, Nakajima-Farran has played a central role and been one of the team's best performers.

"I'm honoured to be part of the national team at this age and regardless of my situation with the recent clubs, Benito has faith and belief in me," says Nakajima-Farran. "I have a lot of respect for him and how he's shaping up the team."

There is no question 2015 is the biggest year for Canadian soccer in some time, with World Cup Qualifying, the Pan/Am games and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It is equally important for Nakajima-Farran, as these next couple of years will be his last chance to make a major impact for the Canadian national team.

"I'm hungry and motivated to see Canada do well in the upcoming events," said Nakajima-Farran, "as it could be my last crack at the young dream I had of playing in the World Cup."

Currently, Nakajima-Farran is in Barcelona, where he is working on another aspect of his career: Issey Art. When his soccer career became turbulent, art has provided both inspiration and a canvas for his passion. His goal with his art is to inspire and captivate those who view it.

What Issey enjoys most about art, being inspirational and passionate, he was able to do with his soccer boots in his short time in Major League Soccer. Even if his year didn't go to plan, he has made himself a household name in Canadian Soccer circles.