The Sounders' star was out with an irregular heartbeat during last season's championship run. "I’m hoping that he’s going to be seriously motivated to win another MLS Cup," coach Brian Schmetzer said.

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Clint Dempsey admits he viewed things a bit differently this regular season, which concludes Sunday for the Sounders at home against Colorado.

A year after missing the end of the season and entire MLS Cup playoff run with an irregular heartbeat, one of the greatest soccer players America has known is now looking ahead beyond this weekend. With his Sounders poised to finish as high as second in the Western Conference, Dempsey, at age 34, realizes this is his do-over chance to take another shot at being on the field for a league title.

“Maybe it helped me to think about things little a bit more,’’ Dempsey said of the heart condition, which sidelined him from late August 2016 until training camp last February. “Because you don’t know how long you have until it will be over.’’

Dempsey has never actually been on the field for a professional team that captured a league championship. He lost the 2005 MLS Cup final playing for New England and never got close to an English Premier League title with either Fulham or Tottenham.

Now, there’s another chance. A win Sunday guarantees the Sounders second place and helps them avoid the dreaded sudden-death opening knockout round of the postseason.

Dempsey, with a team-leading 12 goals this season, needs just one more to tie Fredy Montero’s franchise career mark of 47. Having already positioned himself for Major League Soccer Comeback Player of the Year honors, he’s now a central figure in the team’s hopes of repeating as champions.

It’s been a year of highs and lows for Dempsey both league-wise and internationally. In some ways, just getting back on the pitch was a victory and something Dempsey had doubts about.

“Yeah, you look at life,’’ he said. “But what I had was not life threatening. It was career threatening.’’

And as far as that went, he says he’d always geared himself to “make the most of’’’ every big game, knowing it might be his last. In other words, had his career ended last August, he’d have been good with it, too.

That perspective likely took some of the pressure off to return.

“Yeah, I’ve enjoyed this year,’’ he said. “But I’ve enjoyed every year.’’

Expected to return slowly to international play, if at all, Dempsey played a key role for the U.S. Men’s National Team in winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup as well as helping improve its FIFA World Cup odds with strong performances in several qualifying matches.

But those World Cup hopes were dashed earlier this month in a stunning loss to underdog Trinidad & Tobago. It was likely Dempsey’s final chance to add to his lengthy World Cup resume.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer admitted afterwards that — knowing how seriously Dempsey takes USMNT play — he’d be having a chat with him about his mindset. Namely, he needed to know whether his star forward was in the right mental frame of mind to first lead the Sounders in to the playoffs and then go much deeper.

“I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but the way we look at it here is this is a big club,” Schmetzer said. “This is a big deal. MLS Cup is a big deal. I know from our conversation last year that he wanted to be on his feet for his MLS Cup victory last year. I’m hoping that he’s going to be seriously motivated to win another MLS Cup.”

Dempsey said Sounders fans don’t have to worry about his head not being in it.

“I’ve always pushed myself hard,’’ he said. “I’ve always wanted to make the most of everything. Whatever happens, good or bad, it doesn’t change that.’’

And he’s had enough ups and downs this past year to put that claim to the test. So far, the scoring results have been there and — after a season of varying attack combinations — Dempsey appears to be meshing with wingers Victor Rodriguez and Nicolas Lodeiro.

His goal now, as Schmetzer guessed, is helping the Sounders repeat while playing an active on-field role. Dempsey is fiercely proud of the franchise making the playoffs in each of its nine MLS seasons and has a ring from last year’s title run. But when your competitive fire runs deep, celebrating from the sidelines isn’t quite the same as being out there.

“It’s exciting to be playing with this team again and to be going in to the playoffs and given the opportunity to do something special,’’ he said. “Hopefully, we can bring our best and if we do, I think we’ll go far.’’

And perhaps bring storybook closure to a season that, in the minds of many – including Dempsey – had a chance of not even happening.