Ever so unpredictable, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio played to type in Wednesday's friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina. Carlos Vela and Elias Hernandez in midfield? Orbelin Pineda and Giovani dos Santos flanking the front line? It was an unconventional spin on El Tri's conventional 4-3-3 formation.
Of that out-of-position quartet, only one player managed to roll with the punches and exert his influence all the same. Whether he's being asked to create from a central midfield role or run at fullbacks on the flank, Vela showed he's an attacking presence to be reckoned with as Mexico opened 2018 with a 1-0 victory in San Antonio.
The only thing missing from Vela's performance was a spot on the scoreboard. That distinction belonged to Hugo Ayala, who strengthened his case for a World Cup roster spot this summer with a steady outing in central defense and the 65th-minute header that secured the win for El Tri.
Here are Goal 's player ratings from Mexico's triumph over Bosnia & Herzegovina:
GK RODOLFO COTA, 5: It was a quiet evening between the posts as Bosnia failed to produce a single shot on goal.
D LUIS RODRIGUEZ, 6: Was solid enough defensively and found more success jumping into the attack after halftime.
D HUGO AYALA, 7: Put out a couple fires when called upon, offering a steady presence in central defense, and tucked a floating header inside the far post for the match's lone goal.
D OSWALDO ALANIS, 4: Lost his man before seeing yellow for a lazy first-half challenge that was dangerously close to a penalty. Not his best night.
D JESUS GALLARDO, 5: Wasn't much of a factor on the ball, though he held his own on the defensive side.
M ELIAS HERNANDEZ, 4: Struggled to find much of a rhythm while playing an unfamiliar role, floating toward the right side in Osorio's midfield trio. Was pulled after 45 ineffective minutes.
M JESUS MOLINA, 6: Offered an active presence in possession, covering plenty of ground while dropping deep to distribute.
M CARLOS VELA, 7: Looked at home in a deeper position than we're used to seeing him in before shifting to the front line after halftime. Moved the ball with confidence, drew fouls and offered some moments of magic in the final third.
F GIOVANI DOS SANTOS, 5: Got off to a promising start, creating early moments of danger from the right flank, but ended up drifting in and out of the match before exiting at halftime.
F HENRY MARTIN, 5: Didn't have much service to work with and misfired when a decent chance did fall his way in the second half.
F ORBELIN PINEDA, 4: Another player in an unexpected position, he delivered a fairly anonymous 45 minutes on the left flank before getting the hook at halftime.
| ¡GOOOOOL! Ayala con un cabezazo abre el marcador @miseleccionmx 1-0 @NFSBiH #PasiónyOrgullo #UDAmistoso https://t.co/GdDivA9ibH pic.twitter.com/SlLwUEPZvX — Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) February 1, 2018
D NESTOR ARAUJO, 6: Won his defensive battles and came inches away from opening the scoring with a redirected effort off a set piece.
M JORGE HERNANDEZ, 6: Picked up where Molina left off, keeping matters simple but effective in defensive midfield.
M JONATHAN DOS SANTOS, 7: Threaded the needle with some incisive passes after coming on at halftime and delivered the corner kick that led to Ayala's strike.
F JAVIER AQUINO, 6: Deserves credit for using his mazy displays on the dribble to wreak havoc, even if the final product was lacking.
M JONATHAN GONZALEZ, 5: The former U.S. youth international didn't look completely comfortable in an advanced midfield role, though he did showcase some nifty footwork to get out of trouble and draw a foul on one sequence.
F RODOLFO PIZARRO, 6: Brought an uptick in energy after coming on up top, doing well to create an opportunity for himself before seeing his shot blocked.