Home MLS Toronto FC NCC final abandoned; CSA not sure if field will be ready for Thursday replay

NCC final abandoned; CSA not sure if field will be ready for Thursday replay


The Nutrilite Canadian Championship isn’t over yet. The final match to decide the Voyageurs Cup was halted at the 60-minute mark on Wednesday night due to lightning storms, and, out of concerns for player and spectator safety, the game will replayed on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. EST.

“The match is abandoned this evening,” said CSA General Secretary Peter Montopoli. “We were in a position to try to have the match played this evening but once we got to that position, being on the field, the referee decided that the pitch is not playable.

“The regulations are very clear. The match will be replayed in its entirety tomorrow at 11 a.m., here at BMO Field. We start from zero time.”

The game was called with the Vancouver Whitecaps holding a 1-0 lead on Toronto FC and a 2-1 lead in the aggregate score, thanks to a 17th minute goal from Eric Hassli. With Vancouver now having the upper hand in the tie, head coach Teitur Thordarson was understandably upset at the officials’ decision to replay the game.

“I feel it’s very unfair…because under these circumstances you have to start a new game. The advantage we got from this game doesn’t count, so it’s obviously unfair,” Thordarson said. “I felt that we were well on our way, but these are things we can’t do much about so that’s how it is.

“I’m disappointed, of course, but there are reasons for it. The field was difficult and the lightning is dangerous.”

Thordarson could only chuckle at the suggestion that he and the Whitecaps are cursed in this tournament. Two years ago, Vancouver looked to be in prime position to capture its first NCC title, but TFC pulled off the famous “Miracle in Montreal,” a 6-1 win over a second-string Impact side that allowed Toronto to overcome a seemingly insurmountable goal-differential and win the Voyageurs Cup.

Should TFC triumph on Thursday morning, the Whitecaps and their supporters will no doubt feel that they were once again robbed of their first NCC title and the chance to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League. That said, it’s hard to argue the replay decision given the horrible conditions at BMO Field.

A torrential rain started to fall about 10 minutes into the match, and the first lightning strike came near the end of the first half. The two sides finished the half and then retreated to their dressing rooms as halftime was extended an extra 20 minutes due to the lightning delay.

While there wasn’t any lightning during the delay, the rain kept pouring and taking a toll on the pitch. As play resumed, it quickly became apparent that the field was waterlogged, with entire portions of the pitch almost impossible to pass into or even run through without causing players to stumble.

With the Whitecaps and Reds looking less like professional footballers than a crew of Gene Kelly impersonators, the final “strike” came in the 58th minute when another bolt of lightning lit up the Toronto sky. Play was halted a few minutes later and the match underwent another extended delay.

As more lightning crashed through the sky, the game was officially abandoned at 11:10 PM. Shortly thereafter, the decision was made to replay the match as per FIFA and tournament rules.

TFC head coach Aron Winter admitted that he felt the replay rule was “not fair…[but] at this moment the rules are good for us. If you could play the game you should play it, but you don’t take risks at this moment.

“Because of the rain and the lightning, you’re speaking about peoples’ [lives]. Something can happen and then nobody’s going to discuss an argument about the rules. You have to respect the rules.”

The Reds can certainly count themselves lucky given the scoreboard, but despite Vancouver’s 1-0 lead, TFC was the better team overall on Wednesday. It created more chances, received far more corner kicks (a 6-1 edge in the first half alone) and was the more aggressive side on attack, particularly in the second half.

TFC came within centimetres of tying things up, in fact, just before the match was halted. Forward Nick Soolsma sent a cross from the right side and went towards the far post. It looked as if striker Joao Plata, who was right in position by the post, perhaps got a foot on the ball or perhaps it might have threatened the line anyway on Soolsma’s cross, but in any case, goalkeeper Jay Nolly fell on the ball to keep it out.

Plata raised his arms to celebrate, but the referee said Nolly made the save and the ball never crossed the line. TV replays were inconclusive and, had the match played out with the score intact, it might have been TFC who felt hard done by.

The non-goal was just one of a few moments of controversy in the match. Vancouver’s Terry Dunfield delivered a hard foul to Adrian Cann during first half stoppage time that could’ve easily merited a yellow card. Dunfield already had one booking in the match, and thus the Reds went into the break arguing that they were robbed of a man advantage.

Then, during the sloppiness that was the abbreviated second half, Julian de Guzman was booked in the 48th minute for a very late challenge. It looked as if de Guzman lost his footing on the slippery turf, but still, that was a yellow that also could have been a red card.

With the replay now set, the question is whether BMO Field will be fit with less than 12 hours to drain. Though the stormy weather is predicted to pass, roughly 30 mm of rain is forecasted for tomorrow.

“We will return here tomorrow morning and at [9:30 a.m.] we will take a look at the pitch and make a decision at that time,” Montopoli said. “If the pitch is playable the referee will take a look at it, and if the pitch is not playable, then we will have to reschedule the match at another date, to be determined.”

Montopoli wasn’t sure when this next replay date could be, saying “that’s the next call to CONCACAF.” The Reds and Whitecaps both have busy schedules over the next month, and the Canadian champion must be decided at least a week in advance of July 26-28, the window for the Canadian home date in the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round tie against Real Esteli FC.

Montopoli also noted that both sides will be working from the same 18-man rosters submitted for Wednesday’s match. This is yet another blow against Vancouver, who might at least have slotted in a fresh body or two in the wake of a long cross-country flight and now virtually a second game in as many days.

TFC at least has the security of playing on its own field in the replay, though, given the odd circumstances, it’s hard to predict what might happen on Thursday…if a match takes place at all.

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One Comment

  1. seathanaich

    May 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    The break wasn’t extended 20 minutes, it was extended 30 minutes. If they had just played during that time, the game would have concluded on time, BEFORE the second lightning strike.

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