NASL Seattle Sounders photos bring first generation back to life

Scott Butner and Jenni Conner share their North American Soccer League Seattle Sounders photos with, bringing the past back to life for multi-generational fans in the Northwest.

by David Falk

Scott Butner emailed me a while back and said he was having some color transparencies of Sounders shots from the 1970’s converted into digital files. I was excited at the prospect. When I started getting the photos from Scott I was even more excited: they turned out to be from the fabled 1977 season. Even better, over half of them were from the Soccer Bowl ’77 match between the Sounders and New York Cosmos, hosted at Portland Civic Stadium in August of that year!

I talked with Scott about the history behind how the photos were taken.

Midfielder Steve Buttle (green shirt) during the Sounders 1977 pre-season. (Scott Butner)

“I was working for Pringle-Marchand studios (now defunct) in Everett. I was fresh out of high school, and wasn’t a very good portrait photographer then,” Scott says. “So they had me do sports photography. We had a contract to support the Sounders, and I enjoyed shooting the games a lot. So I always volunteered to cover the games.”

Scott recalls the bad lighting in the old Kingdome. “Mostly, I remember that shooting in the Kingdome was like taking pictures in a bat cave. Very dark, very cavernous. It was always such a treat to get to shoot a game outside for a change, where there was light, and weather, and sometimes even mud! All the things that made soccer photos more interesting.”

These were the days long before digital cameras. “We had to use film that was “push” processed to what seemed like high speeds at the time (ISO 1600) — routine these days in digital. I shot most of my pictures with an old Nikon FM and a Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 Sometimes used a Nikkor 300mm F/4 — we didn’t have the budget for the very large fast lenses that were starting to become popular among the top sports photographers. We had no auto focus, no auto exposure — you had to keep track of that while you shot. In the Kingdome, the light would vary by 1-2 f/stops from one part of the field to another, so you often had to adjust as the play moved down the field. I’d usually shoot 10-20 rolls of film, mostly B&W, during a game. 300-700 pictures, of which I’d hope to get a dozen or two that were really top-notch action photos.”

New York Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing makes the save as the Sounders rally in Soccer Bowl '77. (Scott Butner)

Some of the photos Scott is sharing with us are from a 1977 pre-season match between the Sounders and the California Surf. We are looking for more data on that match. Give me a shout if you know more.

“I remember that when we traveled to exhibition games,” says Scott. ” It was all by bus — and all the players, coaching staff, etc would ride together. But honestly? I don’t remember very much about those times. I was shooting a dozen or more sports events every week, mostly high school sports. I remember that soccer was a tough sport to shoot — because it moved around the field so quickly. It was harder to predict where the action would go than it was in football, though at least the players faces could be seen. Most of the players were imported from other countries, so it always seemed a little exotic, but the fans seemed to know who everybody was.”

Butner’s Soccer Bowl ’77 Gallery – Butner’s Pre-Season 1977 Gallery

The Sounders jog back to the center circle after a Kingdome goal in 1978. (Jenni Conner)

Jenni Conner’s Shoebox

You never know what you’ll find in a shoe box. Just ask Jenni Conner.

The teenager who snapped photos of her soccer heroes in the 1970’s is now the mother of two who has also snapped photos of Sounders players for fans in this generation.

Recently Jenni found a shoe box full of old (mostly) black and white photos from the Seattle Sounders of 1977-1979 in the North American Soccer League.

I grabbed the stash like any good fan would and spent some time scanning and then doing some slight touch-ups to the photos. Now they are online and all of you recent Sounders converts can have a look back at how it used to be.

Notice the crowds, the fan interaction, the banners that covered the Kingdome railings. Notice the way the players would wave in appreciation after matches. Notice how skilled the guys of that era were.

The 1977 Sounders needed to get past the LA Aztecs to reach Soccer Bowl ’77. They did this with a 1:0 win before over 57,000 fans in the Kingdome. See Jenni’s photos from that match, which featured Georgie Best, here.

The Sounders traveled to the Vancouver Whitecaps in 1977. Conner has a small gallery from that trip here.

The Sounders guard their goal in the 1977 playoffs at the Kingdome against the Minnesota Kicks. (Jenni Conner)

One thought on “NASL Seattle Sounders photos bring first generation back to life

  1. Great photos! Really makes me want a retro jersey just like (I hate to say it) Portland. David, do you think we’ll ever get a throwback kit as long a Roth is majority owner? I’m sorry, but he just doesn’t get it. Portland releases their third kit which is arguably the most meaningful in all MLS and we get “Super Cyan”. Really depresses me.

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