Toronto FC are a home win away from another MLS Cup final.
The Reds rode their luck at times against the Columbus Crew on Tuesday night but came out of the first leg of the Eastern Conference final with a 0-0 draw.
They will meet against next Wednesday with the chance to host the last game of the season on the line.
Greg Vanney named an unexpected lineup and formation, switching to a four-man defence with Nicolas Hasler and Marky Delgado out wide in midfield and Victor Vazquez and Jonathan Osorio playing ahead of Michael Bradley.
Toronto started well, passing the ball calmly and taking the sting out of Columbus’ attack without creating many chances of their own. Ricketts was the first to get a sight of Zack Steffen, but had little control over a shot that flew wide.
Ricketts would have a better look late in the half when Vazquez picked him out with a superb cross, but the Canadian could not quite get on top of the ball and headed over the crossbar.
Much like the New York Red Bulls had in TFC’s previous road game, Columbus came out stronger after the break. They appealed for a penalty when Pedro Santos broke into the box and went down under the challenge of Alex Bono, but the only attention the winger would get from the referee was a yellow card for dissent.
The Reds dug in to preserve their clean sheet from that point. They defended stoutly, though Artur - who will miss the second leg after receiving a second booking of the playoffs - shaved the woodwork with a long-range effort.
Artur very nearly opens the scoring, but we are still 0-0. pic.twitter.com/7iy02sFWxz— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) November 22, 2017
But there was one big scare left to survive.
Federico Higuain crossed from the right and when Drew Moor could only clear the ball as far as Harrison Afful, Alex Bono had to produce a tremendous save to keep the game goalless.
Alex Bono averaging a game saving stop per game during these playoffs. Their MVP so far no doubt. pic.twitter.com/RaLoMeu3EL— Mitchell Tierney (@mitchelltierney) November 22, 2017
Columbus continued to huff and puff but could not find a way through, and the tie will go to Toronto as it started.