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Answering the Call: Jackson Lee Earns First-Ever Rhode Island FC Clean Sheet

April 11, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL)
Rhode Island FC News Release

As the final seconds passed and Rhode Island FC's match against Charleston Battery came to a close, Jackson Lee cemented his name in history by becoming the first goalkeeper in Ocean State history to record a clean sheet in USL Championship play. The match against Charleston was only the second start of Lee's professional career, and the Perth, Australia native made a career-high six saves to keep his club alive and ensure a valuable point in the Eastern Conference standings.

"It starts at the front with guys like Albert Dikwa and Mark Doyle and trickles its way down to Jackson," said Rhode Island FC Head Coach and General Manager Khano Smith. "It is a full team effort from them game in and game out."

It was an all-around team effort at home against Charleston, with the RIFC defense recording fourteen tackles, clearing the ball out eleven times and making four key blocks that Lee was certainly appreciative of.

"It's nice," said Lee after the match. "I think clean sheets are one of things that often get awarded to the goalkeeper, but it's definitely a team effort. I don't make those saves without the defenders. There were a lot of shots that were blocked and chances that were killed outside the box without me having to make a save. It's very much a team effort and everyone was involved with that clean sheet. While it may be the first, hopefully it's the first of many."

Lee's key saves were preceded by moments of silence and followed by joyous eruptions from the RIFC fanbase. In the third minute of second-half stoppage time, Lee was challenged to make one more save to hold onto the scoreless draw. As Charleston forward MD Myers headed a close-range shot off of Nick Markanich's pass, Lee made a strong, right-handed save that would ensure the draw as the entirety of Beirne stadium exploded in cheers and applause.

"When it's late in these games it's tough because it starts to open up a little bit," said Lee. "In the moment, you can't really prepare for it. You just have to be ready for anything that comes your way. The shot was low to my right, and I made a similar save in the first half as well, but the guys set me up really well to make the save. It's not as simple as he shoots and I make the save. It's pressure coming from all different ways and the guys really dug in there in the end to really limit their chances and made the saves that I made easier."

In his first start at Tampa Bay the week prior, Lee held the Rowdies scoreless through the first half, but Rhode Island FC ultimately fell 4-1. While the mental roadblock might have negatively affected any other rookie, Lee refused to let the defeat get in his head. Instead, the 22-year-old used the loss as a way to grow and find ways for him and his teammates to improve and continue to develop.

"I think the last game against Tampa Bay was a little bit of a wakeup call, especially the second half," said Lee. "We've learned to be more aware of the space in behind and what we give up, and to be more active in commanding that space both from a defender and a goalkeeper's point of view. We were also at home, so the energy was a lot better and the guys stuck in there. Defensively, everyone was working. From the forward line, the press was impeccable and the defenders as well. There was a lot more communication tonight and awareness of the spaces we gave up."

Lee's efforts against Charleston were enough to earn him a spot on the USL Championship Team of the Week. After the history-making performance, it was an honor the West Virginia University alum was certainly deserving of.

"I'm happy for him," said Smith. "We have three goalkeepers and this is a testament to them as a unit."

Lee has continued to improve and impress after signing with RIFC in December. The goalkeeper was drafted 28th overall in the first round of the 2024 MLS SuperDraft by Los Angeles FC after he had already signed with Rhode Island FC. Lee split his collegiate career between the Mountaineers and George Mason University before declaring for the draft and eventually making his way to the Ocean State. Lee played every minute of West Virginia's 2023 season, including the College Cup semifinals, and set the university record for most goalkeeper wins in a season with 17.

"Karl Spratt, our Director of Goalkeeping, found him first," said Smith. "We already had Koke Vegas, but we wanted to add more quality goalkeepers. We both watched Jackson in the NCAA tournament and we wanted to develop him and form a relationship. He didn't come here because of one person, he came for the team because he believed in what we are trying to do."

Lee and Rhode Island FC will get the chance to extend its defensive dominance this Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET) when the club returns to USL Championship action against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC at Beirne Stadium. Tickets to the second of RIFC's two-match homestand are available now at

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