Clint Dempsey says he decided to sit out United States training camp this month after national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann gave him the option to join the squad or rest up for the MLS season.
The Seattle Sounders forward scored nine goals in 10 appearances with the U.S. last year, but he also struggled with hamstring injuries in 2015. He was left out of the U.S. squad that played two World Cup qualifiers in November as well as the current camp that will last into the first week of February.
With regard to the World Cup qualifiers, Dempsey said he received a text from Klinsmann informing him of the decision, and that he understood the U.S. manager's thinking.
But he also revealed that he was the one who chose to rest this month ahead of the upcoming MLS season.
"He sent me a text during the World Cup qualifiers before that camp letting me know that he wasn't going to call me in, and at the same time have a look at some of the new and younger players," Dempsey said in an exclusive interview. "It's something you've got to do. You've got to make sure you're always preparing for the future and making sure you're doing what's right to put yourself in a position to be successful.
"In terms of the January camp, he sent me a text again, asking is this something I wanted to do or did I need a little bit of more rest. And for me I wanted to build a little bit slower going into the season, especially with the injuries I had last year.
"I want to make sure I have a good foundation. You hit the ground running."
At age 32, Dempsey added that his goal is to be smarter how me manages his body this season. For that reason, his mental energy is being applied to his club.
"In terms of what my future holds we'll have to wait and see," Dempsey said. "I'm just making sure that I'm available to play in games and I'm playing well. That's what I'm focused on. And if you're playing well, you're always putting yourself in a position to be available for selection. I'm just looking forward to the season really, and be healthy and enjoy my ball."
Yet Dempsey made not secret of the fact that he still hopes to play in this summer's Copa America Centenario.
When asked if that was still a goal, Dempsey said, "Yes sir, yes sir, I'd love to play in that tournament if it's meant to be. But at the same time, all you can concentrate on is whatever team you're with and doing the best that you can for them. I'm focused on trying to win an MLS Cup for Seattle."
"I'd love to play in [the Copa America] if it's meant to be, but at the same time, if I don't I don't. All you can concentrate on is, whatever team you're with, doing the best that you can for them, and I'm focused on trying to win an MLS Cup for Seattle."
The Sounders open full preseason training on Saturday, the preseason schedule begins in two weeks on Feb. 3, and the regular season starts a month later on March 6.
Dempsey said on ESPN FC he has high expectations for his team after failing to win any trophies last season.
"I'm looking to have a strong year, especially after 2014 we did really well -- U.S. Open Cup, Supporters' Shield -- and then 2015 not to win anything, so hopefully we could show more consistency through the year," Dempsey said.
"We dropped a lot of points in the summer with injuries and national team call-ups. I think it's crucial to finish towards the top of the table, so that you get that home field advantage in playoffs, that really, that really helps you out in that, it kind of hurt us towards the end."
Dempsey said the Sounders expect this to be season the club finally wins an MLS Cup.
"I mean we have to win MLS Cup, that's what we haven't done," Dempsey said. "Also we want to do really well in CONCACAF Champions League and go as far as we can in that tournament, that's the tournament that I haven't really participated in.
"I mean this is huge for us to do something good this year, especially after last season we didn't win anything, we've got to get back to winning ways."
Dempsey said he has a good relationship with his strike partner and fellow "family man" Obafemi Martins, and also praised the potential of international teammate Jordan Morris, who is likely to sign with Seattle after turning down Werder Bremen on Tuesday.
"You're excited about having quality on your team, he's a player that's shown that he does have quality," Dempsey said. "You know what he did for Stanford with helping the team win the [NCAA] championship, whether he's getting called in for the national team, you know he's performed well. At the same time you've seen him in training with Seattle a few times, you know he's a kid that has a bright future.
"So if it ends up happening yeah there's gonna be some tough decisions for [coach Sigi Schmid] to figure out what's gonna be your best team and what formation to play and you know what's gonna be the dynamic with Oba, myself, and Nelson [Valdez] , how are we gonna rotate that or what formation are we gonna do to get the best out of that.
"So looking forward to the season, I think there's a lot of possibilities there and I think that we have the quality and hopefully we can get the job done."