Victor Rodriguez scored twice for the first time in his MLS career, helping the Seattle Sounders move within a point of the fourth-place Portland Timbers after a 4-1 victory over the visiting Houston Dynamo on Monday night.
Will Bruin and Cristian Roldan also scored early for Seattle, which still has a game in hand on Portland. While the Sounders are now virtually assured of one of the six playoff spots in the Western Conference, finishing fourth or higher would guarantee them a home playoff game.
DaMarcus Beasley scored a late consolation goal for Houston, which was officially eliminated from postseason contention with the defeat.
After winning the U.S. Open Cup last month, the Dynamo become the first winner of that tournament not to also reach the MLS postseason during the same year since D.C. United in 2013.
Following a first half in which Seattle scored twice to take command, Rodriguez struck in the 64th and 73rd minutes to put away his team's second consecutive victory and 11th in its past 13 MLS games.
On his first goal, Kelvin Leerdam drove the ball back into the box after a previous cross rolled through the penalty area. Rodriguez controlled Leerdam's pass, turned and struck a shot that caromed off defender Adolfo Machado on its way past wrong-footed goalkeeper Joe Willis.
The Spaniard needed no such fortune on his second goal. This time Handwalla Bwana played a pass from the right toward the penalty spot, where Rodriguez reached it and snapped in a first-time finish.
Bruin put the Sounders ahead in the 18th minute with a stylish, turnaround effort.
Nouhou Tolo got around Houston's defense down the left and crossed into the penalty area. The ball went beyond Bruin to Roldan, but then Roldan picked out Bruin near the penalty spot. From there, the forward used his first touch to spin around to face the goal and his second to rip a left-footed finish into the top left corner.
Roldan doubled the lead 16 minutes later. Nicolas Lodeiro made a charging run through the midfield, then picked Roldan out on the right wing. Instead of crossing to Rodriguez, who may have been offside, Roldan dribbled forward and lashed a powerful shot past Willis from about 12 yards out.