THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Toronto FC’s CONCACAF Champions League game with FC Dallas was abandoned at halftime Wednesday night as lightning forced fans out of rain-drenched BMO Field.
The end came at 11:25 p.m. ET, with the stadium deserted and FC Dallas up 1-0 after a weather-disrupted first half. The second half never started as thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and rain lashed the lakefront venue.
The full game will be replayed at 10:15 a.m. ET Thursday, with the score back to 0-0.
Club officials said all tickets would be honoured for the morning replay and that ticket-holders would also receive two tickets to the next Champions League match.
The game started at 8 p.m. under dark threatening skies.
Dallas was up 1-0 when the contest was halted for some 40 minutes in the first half due to the threat of lightning and other bad weather.
At 10 p.m., with the second half yet to start, the PA announcer asked what few fans were left to evacuate the stadium and take shelter in the neighbouring Food Building on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. The press box was also evacuated.
A Toronto FC official said there would be a one-hour delay but it wasn’t clear when or if the game would resume. CONCACAF officials huddled, with one official saying the key issues were lightning and the state of the field.
The clock read 31:15 played when the fourth official called over the referee to confer at the sideline. Javier Santos then grabbed the ball and pulled both teams off the BMO Field pitch.
The PA announcer said there would be a 30-minute delay due to adverse weather conditions. Stadium officials cleared fans from the stands after asking them to take refuge.
Thunderstorms were forecast for the evening and there had been a tornado watch in other parts of Ontario earlier in the day.
Rain fell steadily as the small crowd gathered in the concourses or stood under the north stand looking out.
The players returned to the field, as advertised, 30 minutes later for a five-minute warmup. As the players knocked the ball around the pitch, fans emerged from exits to retake their seats.
Play resumed at 9:17 p.m. ET.
But conditions worsened during halftime and the stands were cleared again, with fervent fans under the southeast stand belting out songs during the break. The second half was put on hold.
It’s the second time bad weather has affected a Toronto game this season. The second leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final between Toronto and Vancouver was abandoned May 25 due to lightning and rain. The game was replayed in June.
Dallas opened the scoring in the 18th minute when fullback Jair Benitez, who had a field day down the left side in the first half, found Jackson with a laser-like long-range ball. Eluding defender Danleigh Borman, the Brazilian stuck out a boot and sent the ball past Toronto ‘keeper Milos Kocic.
Kocic was called into action early, making a reflex save in the sixth minute off Brek Shea after Benitez beat Peri Marosevic down the flank.
Toronto captain Torsten Frings was in the wars early on, taking a Shea elbow to the head and a Daniel Cruz boot to the leg before 20 minutes was out.
Frings had a glorious chance in the 26th minute but he swept the ball high over the bar after making a run into the box.
Shea’s volley forced a fine Kocic save in the 29th minute.
Dallas (12-7-7) came into the game 20 points ahead of Toronto (4-12-11) in the league standings but had only collected one point in its last three MLS games.
Still Toronto’s career record against Dallas was 1-6-3 prior to Wednesday. The lone win was in June 2007.
Both teams came into the game with 4-2-2 records in all competitions since visiting Dallas defeated Toronto 1-0 on July 20 in a game that saw the debut of Toronto designated players Frings and Danny Koevermans.
Dallas won its opening game of the group stage on Aug. 17, defeating Pumas UNAM 1-0 to become the first MLS side to win a competitive game in Mexico.
Toronto downed Tauro FC 2-1 in Panama.
Dallas is hurting in defence these days. Centre back George John, who has started 49 games the last two seasons, is in talks with Blackburn Rovers about a move to England. And Zach Lloyd, who has started 22 games this season, is nursing a hamstring.
Midfielder Andrew Jacobson started at centre back for Dallas.
. Notes — Forward Danny Koevermans, who has been nursing an ankle knock, did not make the Toronto bench … Toronto hosts San Jose on Saturday and then has two weeks off before a game in Columbus on Sept. 10.