By JOSE M. ROMERO
The Vancouver Whitecaps were 30 minutes away from their first piece of hardware since becoming an MLS franchise.
They led Toronto FC, 2-1, on aggregate goals when rain and lightning forced an early abandonment of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship second leg in Toronto, and now, the Whitecaps' 1-0 lead Wednesday is for naught. According to Canadian championship rules, the match must be replayed in its entirety on Thursday morning at 11 a.m, EST, at BMO Field assuming that the field is in playable condition.
Sixty minutes of the match had been played despite two weather delays, one after halftime of 35 minutes and another that lasted an hour after players were pulled off the field in the second half.
Vancouver got its lead on aggregate goals after Eric Hassli's 17th-minute goal, which came when his shot deflected off TFC midfielder Julian DeGuzman. Hassli had two goals in the two legs of the championship, but now the second one won't count. The first leg was a 1-1 draw last week at Empire Field.
The winner of the Canadian championship earns a spot in the preliminary round of the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League, where it will face Real Esteli FC of Nicaragua later this year.
Before and even after the rain began falling late in the first half, Toronto FC had more possession and more scoring chances. It totaled seven corner kicks to the Whitecaps' one when the game was called.
If the second-leg match, which on Thursday is weather permitting, goes 90 minutes and ends in a 1-1 draw, it goes to extra-time periods. Both teams have Saturday MLS regular-season matches.