Toronto FC drops Carolina Challenge opener
Toronto FC dropped a 1-0 decision to the MLS expansion San Jose Earthquakes Saturday evening in Charleston, S.C., in a pre-season game that was halted in the 76th minute due to poor weather.
A tornado warning was issued for the Charleston area prior to the game, and the match was abandoned after a big bolt of lightning flashed over Blackbaud Stadium.
The game between the New York Bulls and Charleston Battery that was scheduled to start right after the Toronto match was re-scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
Toronto, which has looked sluggish this pre-season, is trying to improve on its second-place showing in last year's Carolina Challenge Cup, an exhibition tournament hosted by the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer League First Division.
New coach John Carver is also using the tournament as a final dress rehearsal to help him decide on his starting roster for the upcoming regular season. The English coach used three players currently on trial with the team in his starting lineup against the Earthquakes: Puerto Rican defender Marco Velez, English winger Martin Brittain and Colombian forward Victor Danilo Pacheco.
The trio didn't provide much of a spark, though, as Toronto failed to carve out many scoring chances and suffered from a handful of defensive lapses.
San Jose defender Jason Hernandez scored the lone goal in the 21st minute.
Midfielder Ronnie O'Brien, who Toronto traded to San Jose last month, delivered a corner kick into the box that the Toronto defenders could not clear, and when the ball fell to Hernandez he shot past goalkeeper Greg Sutton to give the Earthquakes the lead.
San Jose should have made it 2-0 early in the second half. Rookie Shea Salinas beat the Toronto offside trap to go on a breakaway, but Sutton rushed out to stop the Earthquakes midfielder dead in his tracks.
The referee stopped the game with 14 minutes left in regulation time after a lightning scare and escorted the players back to the locker-room. Following a lengthy delay, and with a heavy rain pouring down and blustery winds blowing through the stadium, officials called the game off.
Toronto was missing four players — Americans Marvell Wynne and Maurice Edu (last year's MLS rookie of the year), and Canadians Andrea Lombardo and Tyler Hemming — who were away on national team duty at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.
Toronto faces the New York Red Bulls on March 19 (6 p.m. ET) and the Battery on March 22 (6 p.m. ET) in its final two games of the Carolina Challenge Cup. Both contests will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca.
The Canadian club begins the MLS regular season on March 29 on the road against the Columbus Crew. The team's first home game is April 19 against Real Salt Lake.