Chivas USA may be sitting atop the MLS table, but there's little question about which team is the league's hottest.
That's the Houston Dynamo, who put their unbeaten home record and three-game winning streak on the line Wednesday night when the short-handed league leaders visit Robertson Stadium.
In one of the two regular-season meetings between the clubs this year, Houston (6-2-3) will also be trying to cut into Chivas' six-point lead in the Western Conference.
They've been making up plenty of ground lately, going 6-0-2 in their last eight matches and allowing a total of two goals over that span.
"We're jumping up the table after a slow start and feeling pretty confident right now," midfielder Stuart Holden said.
Holden scored for the second straight game in Friday night's 1-0 win over Chicago, helping out a team that was without leading goal scorer Brian Ching and midfielder Ricardo Clark. Clark remains with the U.S. national team, while Ching has returned but is sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Houston acquired forward Cam Weaver in a trade with San Jose on Tuesday, but the club will continue to rely on its seemingly impenetrable defense.
Pat Onstad's 0.64 goals-against average leads the league, and he made two saves for his sixth shutout Friday.
"We were under a lot of pressure (against Chicago), and I think we kind of defended with our lives today. The guys are playing well. Defensively, we played very well," Onstad said. "Our front two guys played very hard and I think in that way, we've been pretty successful this year."
The Dynamo have been especially staunch at home, outscoring opponents 9-2 while going 4-0-2. They've won their last four games at Robertson Stadium.
Chivas (8-2-3) couldn't manage a goal in two visits last year, losing 4-0 on Aug. 20 after a scoreless draw last May 3. The club has scored one goal in six all-time meetings in Houston, going 0-4-2.
Coach Preki's club began this year with seven wins in nine matches, but it went three straight games without a victory before beating Seattle Sounders FC 1-0 on Saturday.
Chivas won on Eduardo Lillingston's fifth goal despite getting outshot 11-6, as 'keeper Zach Thornton earned his league-leading seventh shutout.
"It was important for our confidence to get that win," defender Carey Talley said. "In the last few weeks we've played some very good soccer games and come away with a point or with nothing. So for us to come out of this game with three points, you have to give credit to our guys."
Chivas was severely short-handed for that match, and midfielder Sacha Kljestan and defender Jonathan Bornstein will still be with the U.S. national team Wednesday.
While Jesse Marsch returns from suspension, Mariano Trujillo will be suspended and several other Chivas players remain sidelined with injuries. One of them is Ante Razov, the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press