Power of Pumas youth revealed in Gallardo’s rise

Pumas' Jesus Gallardo (dark jersey) scored two goals in 14 games during 2016 Liga MX Apertura regular season. (Photo: Luis Licona/Straffon Images)

MEXICO CITY – It goes without saying that the last six months have been quite memorable for Jesus Gallardo.

During that time, the 22-year-old winger made his Mexico debut in a 2-1 friendly win over New Zealand, helped lead Pumas to the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals by scoring two goals and notching four assists in the group stage and was highlighted by CONCACAF.com as one of the SCCL’s best five best young players.

To start the 2017 Liga MX Clausura, Gallardo has picked up where he left off. On Saturday, he scored the game-winning goal in the third minute of second-half stoppage time to give UNAM a 1-0 win at Leon.

Gallardo’s emergence, however, has also created a “feel good” story at the club.

Since Juan Francisco Palencia took the reins as head coach prior to the 2016 Apertura, there has been a notable emphasis on developing and promoting the club’s youth players.

While Gallardo is a leading light, others are making the right impression.

Midfielder Kevin Escamilla, 22, appeared in 14 league matches last season and played in all four SCCL outings, while 23-year-old defender Alan Mendoza, who was loaned to Dorados and Necaxa last year, has started all three Clausura matches.

“We have shown that we have a great youth system,” said Gallardo. “There is very good internal competition and each of the players has his own great qualities to give the best of himself.”

As a 2W-0D-1L record in the Clausura demonstrates, a youth movement is playing its part in driving Pumas forward.