TFC, Whitecaps match called off
Toronto’s crazy spring weather has put the Nutrilite Canadian Championship on hold — temporarily.
Wednesday night’s second-leg finale between Major League Soccer rivals Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps was officially abandoned when it was called off by the Canadian Soccer Association due to adverse weather and the threat of lightning following two lengthy delays in the second half.
Vancouver was leading 1-0 in the 60th minute when the players were called off the field for the second time in the match. The start of the second half was also delayed for 45 minutes due to the driving rain.
Under the rules of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, the game must now be played again in its entirety the next day.
The replay has been scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. ET. The CSA will inspect BMO Field’s natural grass pitch 90 minutes before kick-off to determine whether it is any kind of condition to stage the match.
If CSA decides the game can’t take place, it will be rescheduled for a later date yet to be determined.
CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli confirmed that BMO Field is the only option they are considering for Thursday’s replay, and that the match would not be moved to another venue in Toronto.
Tickets for Wednesday’s match will be honoured on Thursday, a TFC official confirmed.
The teams fought to a 1-1 draw in Vancouver in last week’s opener of the two-game final, so if Wednesday night’s score had held up, the Whitecaps would have won the championship.
Now they have to start the second leg all over again.
CSA officials stopped the match due to the torrential downpour rendering BMO Field’s pitch unplayable and the possibility of injury to players from the several bolts of lightning that flashed over the stadium.
Both coaches confirmed they knew about the "replay rule" beforehand, but that didn’t make what transpired Wednesday night any less bitter for Vancouver’s Teitur Thordarson, who argued strenuously to have the match completed.
"We would have liked to play, but the decision was made and we have to respect that," said the Whitecaps coach.
TFC coach Aron Winter sympathized with Thordarson and conceded TFC caught a break, but he also maintained the CSA made the right call because player safety could not be compromised.
"It was a risk to play the game with [the] lightning," Winter stated.
Wet field leads to sloppy play
The skies opened up in the sixth minute, but the stiff winds and driving rain did little to dampen the attacking intentions of both teams. The horrid conditions did lead to some sloppy possession and silly turnovers, though.
It was a giveaway by Reds defender Adrian Cann that led to Eric Hassli’s goal in the 17th minute. The Frenchman capitalized by firing a shot from outside the box that took a wicked deflection off TFC’s Julian de Guzman and beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei at the far post.
Toronto had a penalty appeal denied when Mikael Yourassowsky was brought down inside the Vancouver box, but the Whitecaps took a deserved lead into the halftime break.
Joao Plata should have equalized for Toronto just before the game was halted. Nick Soolsma played a dangerous cross deep into the Vancouver box, but Plata could not bundle the ball over the line.
A few minutes later, around 10 p.m. ET, referee Dave Gantar blew his whistle and the players hurried back into the locker-room, safe from the elements.
Winter and Thordarson, along with CSA officials, were out inspecting the field as late as 10:50 p.m. ET, trying to determine the condition of the pitch and whether the match could continue.
Finally, at 11:10 p.m. ET, the CSA officially called off the game.
The rescheduling of the match is a hardship for a pair of teams who must turn around after Thursday’s replay and play another game on Saturday. TFC hosts the Philadelphia Union in MLS action, while the Whitecaps have to return home from Toronto to play the New York Red Bulls.
Toronto FC is the two-time defending Canadian champion. Vancouver has never won the competition since the inaugural tournament in 2008.