Pumas winger Jesus Gallardo continues making Mexico case

Edson Alvarez Club America Jesus Gallardo Pumas

Nobody came all that close to breaking the deadlock in Sunday's scoreless draw between Pumas and Club America, but Pumas' best chances came from left winger Jesus Gallardo.

Pumas still sit atop the table after three weeks, and while forward Nicolas Castillo has been the headline act with four goals, Gallardo has been an important member of the supporting cast. In 85 minutes Sunday, Gallardo had two shots and found Castillo with two of his three crosses. On several occasions Gallardo was able to skip past another Mexico national team hopeful in America right back Edson Alvarez.

The 23-year-old's continued emergence is good news for the Mexico national team in many respects. Gallardo is pushing to make the 23-man roster to go to Russia after playing in the 2017 Gold Cup as part of Mexico's alternate lineup. Playing more often for a team that looks much improved from their last-place finish in the Apertura will help boost stock. One issue is that new Pumas manager David Patino is playing Gallardo as a left winger. Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio doesn't necessarily want that, deploying Gallardo as a left back on most occasions. Osorio doesn't need wingers. He has Hirving Lozano, Jesus Corona, Javier Aquino, Jurgen Damm and others to choose from there.

That Gallardo isn't seeing time at defender might not be too much of an issue for Osorio. The national team coach has shown little discomfort in putting players in places they're not used to playing with their club team. Gallardo playing left back in the first place came about because Osorio saw him profiling as a defender. He's growing into the role, most recently playing at the back for El Tri in their 1-0 friendly win against Poland.

Patino is unlikely to shift Gallardo back to defense as he excels in midfield and Luis Fuentes holds down the left-back role. "My job is to make the team competitive against any team and today we did it against America. This game was very different from the other two we've had," Patino said after Sunday's match.

So far playing Gallardo on the left wing has been the best way for Patino to help his team. Gallardo has combined well with Castillo and also gives Matias Alustiza more space to work in the middle as the second striker behind the Chilean. As he demonstrated against America, with a pair of shots that didn't hit the target but weren't far off, Gallardo is looking more and more comfortable taking shots. Osorio's eyes will be lit up by the passing, though. There were the two successful crosses he sent Sunday as he looked to add on to the one assist he already has in the young season. Gallardo also scored in the opening weekend during Pumas' frantic rally against Pachuca.

Gallardo showing improvement is a great sign that he's already a mature enough player to serve as a reserve for the national team. We've had hints at his maturity before, such as his calmness and respect for members of Pumas' ultras who confronted a trio of players. During the tense encounter captured on video, Gallardo worked to diffuse the situation and admitted the performance in the Apertura wasn't good enough for the club where he has developed. 

Jesus Gallardo Mexico

Now it's obvious that Gallardo is fit to wear the shirt, and the excellent start to the campaign from the team shows that Patino has the squad on course to have a much better tournament than the one prior. The Pumas shirt is not the only one Gallardo will wear during his career. Last season, he was linked with a move to Chivas, though that never materialized, and continued national team minutes will put him in the window for teams from abroad to come in.

For now, his focus will be on keeping Pumas atop Liga MX and pushing hard for a spot on the final 23-man roster for Russia. The left-footed profile and ability to come in for a variety of situations should bode well for Gallardo. At the very least, he'll be expecting to be on the field wearing green once again later this month for a domestic-based team against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Impress once again and it will be up to Osorio and the staff whether Gallardo is the type of player they can't leave at home this summer.