TORONTO - A strange game produced an unlikely hero.
Defender Jack Stewart's header in first-half injury time gave FC Dallas a 1-0 win over Toronto FC in a weather-delayed CONCACAF Champions League game that stretched over two days.
The first attempt at the game was called off at 11:25 p.m. ET Wednesday after lightning forced fans out of rain-drenched BMO Field. Dallas was leading 1-0 at the time but the score was wiped out and the contest started anew under bright sunshine at 10:15 a.m.
Stewart, who joined Dallas on loan from the Minnesota Stars last week, started Thursday's replay after Andrew Jacobson was a late scratch.
The team was walking out to the field when coach Schellas Hyndman found out that Jacobson's peanut allergy had been triggered by a bite of chocolate.
"So that was a lesson learned," said Hyndman. "He's not going to eat any more chocolate."
Lax Toronto defending on the play allowed the centre back to score on his Dallas debut via a glancing header, converting a cross from Ugo Ihemelu.
"Don't know much about him, but I've got to say he's pretty good in the air," Hyndman said of Stewart, who is making a comeback to MLS.
"We were not sharp enough," Toronto coach Aron Winter said of the play.
The win improved Dallas' record in the group stage to 2-0-0 while Toronto slipped to 1-1-0.
The top two teams in each of the four Champions League groups advance to the knockout round. The other two teams in Group C are Mexico's Pumas UNAM and Panama's Tauro FC.
On Wednesday night, FC Dallas led 1-0 thanks to an 18th-minute goal from Brazilian attacking midfielder Jackson during a weather-disrupted first half. The second half never started as the lakefront venue was lashed by rain, with thunder and lightning overhead.
The replay had the feel of a practice, with the few fans on hand sitting in one section of the stadium.
The doors were open to all-comers free of charge Thursday, although they had to pay admission to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds with the annual fair going on.
The first fans didn't trickle into the stadium until 10:05 since the Ex gates opened at 10 a.m. They were funnelled into the east stand and the count was in the low hundreds when the players came out.
Goalie Milos Kocic was the first Toronto player to take the field for Thursday's warmup — at 9:30 a.m. just 10 hours after the original game had been called off. On the plus side, he was greeted by bright sunshine rather than a tropical storm.
The 23-degree heat had some of the substitutes hiding their heads under towels.
"It was really a strange event and it was a beautiful day today but I tell you the players really felt that sun on them — and the fatigue," said Hyndman.
"It's a compliment to Toronto and FC Dallas how well they put everything on the line today."
Still even the PA announcer was out of his comfort zone, announcing the officials for "tonight's game."
Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez's penalty shot was off target in the 45th minute after Richard Eckersley brought down Marvin Chavez in the box. Chavez had taken advantage of poor Toronto defending, cruising through Ty Harden and Danleigh Borman.
"I guessed right but he shot wide, outside of the post," said Kocic. "If it was on goal, I think I would have saved it. I think I covered the goal."
Eckersley got a yellow on the play and was sent off in the 90th minute for a second caution.
Home points are valuable in this competition and the defeat was especially disappointing for Toronto. Winter reminded his team at halftime Thursday that they had already got two breaks — via the missed penalty and the fact that the first match was abandoned when they were losing.
Toronto pushed hard for an equalizer as the replay wound down.
Goalie Kevin Hartman preserved the win with a close-range stop on former Dallas player Peri Marosevic in the 78th minute. And French midfielder Leandre Griffit, making his Toronto debut as a second-half substitute, shot just wide minutes later.
"We forgot to score," Winter lamented.
The game ended some 16 hours after it started.
Kocic, for one, was unfazed by the quick turnaround.
"Hey I'm a goalkeeper, you should ask (outfield) players," he said with a grin. "They're the ones running."
The 28-year-old Stewart played for the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake from 2005 to 2007 before moving to Norway in 2008. He returned to the U.S. a year later, injuring his leg playing for the Carolina RailHawks.
Returning to action this year after almost two years out, he joined the NASL Minnesota Stars before signing with Dallas.
Toronto made two changes overnight with Gianluca Zavarise and Matt Stinson coming in for Terry Dunfield and Andy Iro.
Captain Torsten Frings dropped back to play in a three-man backline with Winter saying he wanted more balance in the midfield.
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 (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.