Is Segra Field Cursed?
Segra Field. The very name strikes fear and anger in the hearts of Washington Spirit fans everywhere. Both fans and journalists alike seem to think the field is cursed due to the Spirit’s memorably poor performances there. But is this just perception, or is Segra Field actually detrimental to the Washington Spirit?
For some context, Segra Field is located in Leesburg, Virginia. It’s not only one of the home venues for the Spirit, but also for Loudoun United FC of the second-tier men’s league USL Championship. It's owned by D.C. United, the male counterpart to the Spirit, who play in first-tier Major League Soccer. Washington was due to start play at Segra for the 2020 season, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, only the Fall Series was played there that year. It truly became a home venue for the 2021 season when fans were allowed to attend matches. It seemed to many who watched the Spirit play that season that they could not win at Segra. Their record that season there was one win, three losses, zero draws. They ended up winning the 2021 NWSL Championship, going on a long unbeaten streak. This begs the question: what makes the Spirit lose at Segra? Is it a curse?
The short answer to “is Segra Field cursed?”: statistically speaking, yes, Segra Field is cursed.
Let’s look at the data, with two caveats first. These numbers are as of July 10, 2022. This data also includes non-regular season games such as the Fall Series in 2020 and the Challenge Cups to reflect every match played at the field.
Out of 11 games played at Segra Field over three years, the Spirit have won two, drawn three, and lost six. Roughly 54 percent of Washington Spirit matches at Segra Field have been losses.
Audi Field, the Spirit’s other home venue, boasts a much better record. They were supposed to start play there in 2020, but had to postpone to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of 15 matches, the Spirit have won nine, drawn four, and lost two. Roughly 13 percent of Washington Spirit matches at Audi Field have been losses.
The data doesn’t lie: the Spirit are likely to lose at Segra Field. Aside from the actual performances on the field, however, there is one major factor that can explain the curse: the field itself.
Firstly, anyone who’s seen the Spirit play at Segra can attest that the turf at Segra Field is truly odd. Balls either don’t bounce or don't bounce as expected, players slip frequently, and play is much slower than on other turf surfaces around the league. For a team like the Spirit that relies on speed and quick, transitional play, this spells disaster. Their entire identity on the field has to shift to accommodate for the bizarre turf at Segra. No longer can Trinity Rodman make a quick pass to Ashley Sanchez, who scores on her second touch. They instead have to either dribble through a wall of defenders or receive a long ball over the top and keep the ball at their feet. Any bounce is a risk.
Secondly, many viewers voice their displeasure with the quality of the turf, taking screenshots of thousands of black rubber turf pellets being sprayed with every kick. A parent of an athlete who plays at Segra had this to say regarding the pellet situation:
The more pellets are kicked up, the more difficult it is to run. For a young team that is constantly trying to move forward, that could be a major problem. The pellets are most noticeable in this clip of the Kerolin goal from the June 11, 2022 game at Segra:
Notice how Kerolin’s feet leave noticeable “footprints” in the turf. This is not typical. Other turf fields do not have that amount of pellets, which as the parent’s tweet above notes, leads to a subpar experience for players and spectators alike.
The problem of slow game tempo at Segra could be alleviated (read: not fixed) with one simple tweak. Many professional turf fields, including fellow NWSL venue Providence Park, spray water on their turf to make the ball roll faster. The turf at Segra does not appear to be watered. This could partially explain the slow tempo of play. The ball can deaden if there is not a decently slick surface for it to roll or bounce on. The Spirit could play more of their typical style if the field allowed them to.
Given the current arrangement between the Spirit and D.C. United, the team is likely to continue playing at Segra Field for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t stop fans and even players from asking for better playing conditions.
Back to the original research question: is Segra Field cursed? Yes, but it doesn’t have to be. Watering the turf would help the Spirit (and other home sides at Segra) to keep more of their play style rather than having to completely change their identity to fit the field. That being said, other teams in the league figure out how to work around Segra’s weirdness. The Spirit should too. Having more practice time at Segra (which is not the team’s practice field) could benefit the team immensely, especially for a team that has to adjust so drastically to succeed. Overall, Spirit fans should be able to look forward to every home game, not just at Audi Field.