NASHVILLE, TN - It looked like another frustrating performance at home for the Boys In Gold, but Jimmy Ockford had other ideas, heading home the winner in the 93rd minute. UPDATE: The goal was later credited to Birmingham's Akeem Ward as an own goal.
Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith decided not to risk striker Daniel Ríos or Derrick Jones from the outset, naming them both to the bench after their return from respective injuries. Smith sent out his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, pushing Matt LaGrassa into the no. 10 role in Lebo Moloto's absence.
Nashville typically controlled plenty of possession in the opening exchanges, holding 57% possession in the first half. However, the Boys In Gold found it difficult to create anything from central areas, looking instead to Alan Winn on the left and Darnell King on the right. Birmingham, on the other hand, seemed content to absorb pressure and try to hurt Nashville on a counter or a set piece, with their only shot of the half coming from a corner kick.
The second half held more of the same for Nashville, who again saw more of the ball but struggled to break through Birmingham's compact defense. It took until the 73rd minute for Nashville to get a clear-cut chance, when Ropapa Mensah pounced on a loose ball and drove at the defense. The young attacker had plenty of time and space, but put his shot right down the center of the goal, making it easy for Matt Van Oekel to push wide.
Smith was aggressive with his substitutions, bringing on Daniel Ríos and Tucker Hume late in the match to try to find a winner for Nashville. However, it was a defender who found provided the spark. Late in added time, Jimmy Ockford lept up to meet a Justin Davis corner kick. His header may have been on its way to the net, but took a fortunate deflection off of Kyle Fisher and rolled over the line. There was an element of fortune to the goal, but on the balance of play it was probably deserved.
The win marked goalkeeper Matt Pickens' 100th career shutout, over a distinguished career that has included US Open Cup and MLS Cup wins with Colorado Rapids. The veteran keeper wasn't called into action often against Birmingham, but did more than enough to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
The win pushes Nashville into third place, with more matches played than any other side in the top five. They'll be back at home on Saturday, taking on fifth placed Pittsburgh Riverhounds at First Tennessee Park at 7:00 PM.