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Photo Essay: Toronto FC’s historic night just missing a fairytale ending

Waking the Red’s photographer Luke Galati was on hand to document the before, during and after of the MLS Cup final.

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Toronto FC had been waiting 10 years for this moment: A chance at championship glory in front of their fans at BMO Field. The storybook only needed the final chapter to go their way.

The banner that TFC fans unveiled before the match read, “Nothing is more powerful than a club whose time has come.” But, after a season full of conquering uncharted territory, the MLS Cup has eluded the Reds for another year.

For 120 minutes, TFC had controlled the game, registering seven shots on goal against the Seattle Sounders, who became the first club in MLS history to win a championship without a single shot on target.

The game was a rugged one, with the referees letting the two teams play. Seattle played particularly physically on Sebastian Giovinco, who was eventually taken off in the 103rd minute for Tosaint Ricketts. “He couldn't move,” Greg Vanney said after the match. “It's not like I take him off because I want to. I look at him and he gives me this sign that he can't go anymore.”

In the 108th minute, from a Ricketts cross, Jozy Altidore aimed a header that was floating directly into the top-right corner of the goal until former Toronto keeper Stefan Frei scooped the ball away in mid-air, making the save of his life. “It was absolutely immaculate,” said Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer. “Something from the heavens.”

Despite Toronto having more opportunities, the game went to penalty kicks. Michael Bradley missed on TFC’s second kick, which could have been the final nail in the coffin if not for a massive save by Clint Irwin on Seattle’s third shooter.

With the shootout tied, Justin Morrow, who has been one of the best left backs in the MLS this season, hit the crossbar. An inch lower and Morrow’s shot would have surely sailed into the back of the net.

It was then another defender, Román Torres, who finished the game for Seattle, delivering the club’s first-ever MLS Cup. As Torres lifted his arms and his teammates ran to celebrate with him, the scene at BMO Field in the supporters section could only be described as hauntingly silent.

Despite evidently outplaying Seattle, TFC ultimately came up empty handed; the cruel reality of the beautiful game.

While the vast majority of the crowd left the stadium, the Seattle section stayed to celebrate. While it surely was not the way TFC wanted the season to end, the 2016 campaign remains the most successful in the club’s history.

From the last session at the frigid Kia Training Ground to the final practice at BMO Field and of course, the MLS Cup itself, Waking the Red photographer Luke Galati documented the biggest week in Toronto FC history.

Here are the best 70 photos from the 2016 MLS Cup.