Sunil Gulati, who was fired as Major League Soccer's deputy commissioner this year after upsetting a powerful league investor, will return to MLS as a front office official for the New England Revolution, sources said over the weekend.
The Revolution concluded a 12-20 season Saturday night with a 2-1 shootout victory over D.C. United at RFK Stadium, missing the playoffs for the third time in four years. The club fired coach Walter Zenga two weeks ago and has been preparing to overhaul its roster.
Gulati's title with the Revolution couldn't be determined, but he likely will oversee player personnel matters. Reached yesterday, Gulati said he had no comment. Revolution officials couldn't be reached to comment.
Gulati, 40, was instrumental in launching the league in 1996 and was responsible for signing most of MLS's foreign stars and U.S. players. However, he was dismissed in February after re-signing New York/New Jersey midfielder Tab Ramos to a league contract, reportedly without notifying one of the club's investors, Stuart Subotnick.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said upon his hiring in August that he wanted to surround himself with soccer-knowledgeable officials, but did not rehire Gulati.
As the Revolution prepares for next season, United (23-9) is getting ready for its best-of-three first-round playoff series against the Miami Fusion (13-19) starting Saturday at RFK Stadium. The teams also met in the first round last year, with United winning in two games. D.C. won all four meetings during this regular season.
Coach Thomas Rongen's main concern at the moment is the condition of central defender Carlos Llamosa, who strained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during the second half Saturday. Llamosa was examined by trainer Rick Guter yesterday and has shown signs of improvement, club spokesman Rick Lawes said.
"It looked less serious than originally feared," Lawes said, adding that Llamosa will be reexamined by team doctor William Hazel today. His status for Saturday is questionable, and if he is unable to play, Carey Talley likely would be added to the four-man defensive alignment.
The only other regular injured Saturday was midfielder Geoff Aunger, who dislocated a finger but will be available.
Rongen's other concern is an 0-3-1 record in the past nine days, including consecutive home losses to teams with losing records last week. On Saturday, United's defense and goalkeeping were good, but the midfield attacked inconsistently and forwards Roy Lassiter and A.J. Wood didn't capitalize on their scoring opportunities in the second half.
"We need to refocus and do better finishing our chances and possessing the ball," Rongen said. "We haven't played good football with the ball."
In the other Eastern Conference matchup, second-place Columbus will play third-place Tampa Bay. The Crew completed its regular season yesterday by blowing a two-goal lead in the second half and losing at home to Chicago, 3-2, in a shootout. The Mutiny lost to Dallas, 2-1, last night on Jason Kreis's goal in the 82nd minute.
With the victory, Dallas broke a three-way tie for second place in the Western Conference and will face Chicago in the playoffs. First-place Los Angeles takes on Colorado, which has gone a league-record 499 minutes without a goal.