Youthful Pumas looks to clinch SCCL quarterfinal spot

Kevin Escamilla (middle) may get a starting nod at Honduras Progreso in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on September 15, 2016. (Photo: Mexsport)

MEXICO CITY – It has been nearly a month since Pumas’ last match in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. On August 18, second-half goals by Eduardo Herrera and Saul Berjon lifted UNAM to a 2-0 victory over visiting Honduras Progreso.

The sides will meet again on Thursday at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, with the Mexican power in position to seal the Group A title and a place in the quarterfinals through another win.

Since his side currently owns a five-point lead atop the table, Pumas head coach Francisco Palencia is expected to give some of the club’s talented youth players a start, including Kevin Escamilla.

“Going to Honduras, we youngsters have a hunger to win,” said Escamilla. “For me, it is mandatory that we return with three points and we will leave it all out there. I feel like I am in Mexico’s best team and, most importantly, a large percentage of us in the first team were born here in the Pumas youth system.”

The 22-year-old, who has made three appearances during the current Liga MX Apertura campaign, emphasized the importance for Pumas’ youth to set a winning tone now.

“For me, yes, it is obligatory to win,” he stressed. “You have to get accustomed to doing it. We are all going to be the future of this club and we are facing things in the best way. It is a good challenge and we hope that it goes well for us.”

Escamilla also pointed out that Palencia’s own experience of rising through the youth ranks at Cruz Azul -- and winning Mexican league titles on teams comprised of numerous academy players -- has played a part in Pumas’ push to give young competitors an opportunity.

“Palencia already experienced it and he knows the characteristics that this team and the youth player possess,” finished the midfielder. “In previous seasons in which he was champion, the large portion of the team was from the youth system.

“He wants to experience another situation like that again. He experienced it as a youngster, so I think that is why he understands this group well.”