Fire versus Chivas USA preview
Before coming to MLS in 2007, Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco was the longtime nemesis to Chivas USA's counterpart in the Mexican Primera Division.
Chivas contained Blanco and shut out the Fire in last season's home victory.
In an anticipated matchup of the league's top teams Thursday night, Chivas will try for another home win over Chicago and spoil Blanco's final MLS road game before he joins the Mexican national team for upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.
The 36-year-old Blanco played 12 seasons with Club America, archrival of Chivas de Guadalajara. In his first trip to face Chivas USA in 2007, he helped the Fire to a 1-1 draw by scoring on a free kick from 30 yards out.
All Blanco got in last season's 2-0 road loss June 19 was a yellow card for arguing a foul.
This year's matchup at the Home Depot Center will pit one of the league's top offenses in Chicago (17 goals) against MLS' best defense Chivas (six goals).
The Fire (4-0-6) also enter the match as the league's lone remaining unbeaten team and with a two-point lead over D.C. and Toronto in the Eastern Conference. Chivas USA (7-1-3) is eight points ahead of Seattle in the West and its 24 points lead MLS.
Chicago at Chivas USA
Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360
Chicago tops the league with three road wins (3-0-3), and Chivas' five home victories (5-0-1) are the most in MLS.
In addition to Blanco -- who is tied for second in MLS with five assists -- the game will feature former Primera Division players like Chivas forward Eduardo Lillingston and defender Mariano Trujillo. Another Chivas defender who came from Mexico's top league, Claudio Suarez, is questionable with a calf strain.
"It's an enticing game," Lillingston told the league's official Web site. "There are two of the best teams in the league, each with some big-name players. It's going to be a great match."
Following five straight ties, Chicago has recorded consecutive victories -- both on the road. In Saturday's 1-0 win over New York, Chris Rolfe scored his second goal in as many games, and Jon Busch recorded his second straight shutout by making a season-high 10 saves.
"The funny thing is that in the beginning of the season we were playing some attractive soccer, and we weren't really getting the results," Rolfe said. "Now we're just playing more like we did last year, competing, getting behind the ball and playing hard-nosed defense."
Former longtime Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton leads MLS with a 0.55 goals-against average and six shutouts for Chivas, but his team has posted consecutive ties following his three straight clean sheets.
In Saturday's 1-1 draw at Kansas City, Lillingston tied the match with his team-leading fourth goal in the 64th minute and second in as many games, but Chivas couldn't take advantage of a Wizards squad that was two men down.
"You're disappointed you didn't get the victory, but coming back and making sure you get a point on the road is always important," said midfielder Sasha Victorine, who assisted on Lillingston's goal.
Chivas holds a 4-3-1 lead in the all-time series with the Fire, going 2-1-1 at the Home Depot Center.
The Fire's Patrick Nyarko scored past Thornton in a 1-0 win Aug. 2 in Chicago.