Gonzalez, Ayala turn in strong displays to boost World Cup claims
Thanks to a lone goal from Hugo Ayala in the 65th minute, Mexico has kicked off its World Cup year with a 1-0 friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Although several stars such as Javier Hernandez and Guillermo Ochoa weren't involved in the non-FIFA date friendly, Liga MX and MLS-based options like Jonathan dos Santos, Jesus Gallardo and Jonathan Gonzalez were able step up and help take charge for El Tri.
Following the match, manager Juan Carlos Osorio will have plenty to think about after utilizing a roster that featured countless backup players vying for a position in the World Cup.
Several fringe names stood out for Mexico. Whether it be Javier Aquino, Ayala, Gallardo or a few others, there was no lack of eager and hungry players on Monday night.
One can't also overlook Gonzalez's much-anticipated debut either. Despite the damage the move has done to U.S. Soccer, the Mexican-American's decision to switch to El Tri will likely be inspiring for millions of Mexican soccer fans in the United States.
El Tri was by far the better side and held an immense advantage in time of possession. Fans should rightly be troubled that Mexico was able to find the back of the next just once. Were it not for Ayala's well-placed header in the second half, El Tri could have easily stumbled to a worrisome 0-0 draw in San Antonio, Texas.
Manager rating (out of 10)
6 -- This one is all about perspective. If we are only looking at this single game, Osorio took a risk by going with a extremely fluid 4-1-4-1 formation. There was a sense of an organized mess as Orbelin Pineda, Carlos Vela, Elias Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos were all constantly changing positions in the midfield. Mexico was high-pressing yet chaotic, and it wasn't until the second half that a more structured approach began to emerge.
However, when taking a step back, it's also important to note that Osorio's priority wasn't to earn a win, but rather to test and challenge his backups.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Rodolfo Cota, 7 -- Cota had to do little work to earn this shutout. The goalkeeper had no mistakes, but also didn't have very many chances to create any.
DF Luis Rodriguez, 5 -- The Tigres player was the weak link on defense. Rodriguez improved as the match went along, but Osorio shouldn't forget his worrisome first half.
DF Hugo Ayala, 8 -- Ayala was not only reliable defensively, but also scored Mexico's game-winner. The 30-year-old remains a strong candidate to sneak into a last minute spot on the World Cup roster.
DF Oswaldo Alanis, 5 -- Without much playing time for Chivas so far this season, it wasn't surprising to see Alanis look a bit awkward in the backline. A forgettable evening for the central defender.
DF Jesus Gallardo, 7 -- Gallardo was proactive in the attack and a solid presence in the defense. The young left-back continues to be an intriguing figure for the national team.
MF Jesus Molina, 8 -- Molina was a welcome source of patience and control in the erratic first half. The 29-year-old still has plenty to prove in the national team spotlight, but on Monday, Molina took a big step forward in the right direction.
MF Orbelin Pineda, 6 -- Whether it be due to Osorio's orders to constantly switch positions or a lack of confidence, Pineda had another inconsistent match for Mexico. The promising youngster failed to strengthen his relevance to the squad.
MF Carlos Vela, 6 -- Vela was risk-taking and aggressive in the first half and disappointingly quiet in the second. One of Mexico's most talented players must step up his performance in order to hold onto a starting role.
MF Elias Hernandez, 6 -- Similar to Pineda, it's difficult to pin Hernandez's inconsistent play on just the player. Osorio's midfield experimentation hindered a bigger role in the attack.
MF Giovani dos Santos, 5 -- Dos Santos ran out of stream far too early in the game. After an exciting start, the team captain quickly began to quiet down and was replaced with a substitute during halftime.
FW Henry Martin, 4 -- It's one thing to note that he needed more players to feed him the ball, but when he did have possession, Martin did little with it. The Club America striker likely squandered his "try-out" ahead of the World Cup.
MF Javier Aquino, 8 -- Substituted in for Gio dos Santos during half-time. An adventurous performance from the winger. Aquino lost the ball a number of times, but was also a breath of fresh air with his audacious runs.
MF Jonathan dos Santos, 9 -- Substituted in for Pineda during half-time. Mexico's key distributor and playmaker in the second half. The LA Galaxy player also provided the assist for the lone goal off a corner.
MF Jorge Hernandez, 7 -- Substituted in for Molina during half-time. "Burrito" worked well in the midfield and helped El Tri maintain its high pressure in the second half.
DF Nestor Araujo, 7 -- Substituted in for Alanis during half-time. No problems or issues for the Santos Laguna defender that had an easy day at the office.
MF Jonathan Gonzalez, 8 -- Substituted in for Hernandez during the 57th minute. Active and with a good control of the ball, Gonzalez immediately clicked with the midfield in his debut for the national team.
FW Rodolfo Pizarro, N/A -- Substituted in for Martin during the 73rd minute.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.