Sounders Insider

MLS conference leaders meet tonight

It's not quite Barca-ManU, but the Chicago Fire and Chivas USA will meet tonight in a rare pairing of MLS conference leaders ... and, of course, a game with Sounders implications.

With Seattle at home vs. slow-starting Columbus this weekend, there is every chance to pick up a needed two or three points in the standings, depedning on tonight's result.

Kickoff is a 7:30 p.m. and the game will be shown on ESPN2.

Here's a pregame release sent out by MLS:

For just the fifth time in a decade, two teams in sole possession of first place in their respective conferences will meet when Chivas USA hosts the Chicago Fire Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The old adage is that defense wins championships, but in the regular season, does offense rule? That question will be tested Thursday.

The Fire (4-0-6) are the only remaining undefeated team in Major League Soccer. The Fire lead the League in goals scored with 17, an average of 1.70 per game, and they have not been shut out. Brian McBride is tied for the League lead with six goals in 10 games. Mexican playmaker Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who will report for Mexico's World Cup qualifiers next week, is as crafty as ever, providing a goal and five assists (tied for 2nd in the league), for the Fire.

Chivas USA coach Preki has his squad atop the Western Conference and top of the overall MLS table with a 7-1-3 record and 24 points. Chivas USA has allowed only six goals in 11 matches. Much credit goes to five-time MLS All-Star goalkeeper Zach Thornton, who has rejuvenated his career after playing just nine games in the past two seasons. He leads the League with six shutouts and a 0.55 goals against average. Chivas USA are 5-0-1 at home this season.

Current Chivas USA squad members Zach Thornton, Jesse Marsch, and Ante Razov all played for the Chicago Fire's 1998 MLS Cup Championship team and defender Jim Curtin spent his first eight seasons with the Fire. The 1998 Fire are the only team to win MLS Cup in their inaugural season.

In the past 10 seasons, the only other meetings between two teams in sole possession of the conference leads occurred later in the season (records entering the match):

08/08/2004 LA Galaxy (9-5-6) 0, at MetroStars (8-6-5) 3

07/04/2006 D.C. United (10-1-5) 1, at FC Dallas (8-4-3) 0

07/22/2007 Houston Dynamo (10-5-3) 3, at New England Revolution (7-3-5) 3

07/04/2008 New England Revolution (9-4-3) 2, at LA Galaxy (6-5-3) 1