Luca Gasparotto (right) in action for the Canada U-20s against England
Action Images / Reuters

CanMNT: Luca Gasparotto looks to translate successful Airdrieonians loan to first national team cap

Luca Gasparotto likes to live in the moment.

For the 20-year-old center back (above, right), who finds himself at a turning point in his career, that attitude makes perfect sense. He isn’t dwelling on the past, nor is he getting too wrapped up in the future.

After three years spent predominantly in the youth ranks at Glasgow Rangers, Gasparotto joined Airdrieonians in Scotland’s League One on loan this season. He flourished at Airdrie, becoming a fixture on the team’s backline, and had his loan extended to season’s end.

“I’ve been fortunate to be playing week in, week out,” Gasparotto told in a phone interview. “That’s why I wanted to go out on loan this season.

“I’ve come a long way from where I was last year – just being with a different team, a different group of boys, playing at a high level. It’s been a good season.”

His season with his new club – in which Gasparotto has made 21 appearances and scored twice – got him on the radar of Canadian head coach Benito Floro, who named the youngster to Canada’s squad ahead of upcoming friendlies against Guatemala (Fri., 4:30 pm ET) and Puerto Rico (Mon., 6:30 pm ET).

“I’ve already had a pretty good career with the Canadian [program], and I want to keep going, so this is the next step,” said Gasparotto, who represented Canada at the 2011 FIFA Under-17 World Cup. “It’s going to be an exciting year, so I’m going to enjoy this week. I’m going to work really hard and try to make a good impression on the coaches.”

The year, however, got off to an inauspicious start for Gasparotto and his Canadian teammates at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in January. Despite going into the tournament with plenty of hype, Canada won just one of their five group stage games and missed out on qualifying for this year’s U-20 World Cup. 

“We were all disappointed, the way it turned out,” said Gasparotto. “[We had] a lot of confidence and quite high expectations coming into the camp, and I think that was one of our problems. We overlooked some of the games.

“If there’s one thing to take from it – we can’t overlook any team we play, no matter who they are. We need to take it one game at a time and not get too far ahead of ourselves. It was disappointing, but we’ve all moved on.”

One player who might have helped Canada in that tournament was Toronto-born Fraser Aird, Gasparotto’s teammate at Rangers. Aird has represented Scotland at the youth levels but was set to join Canada for the U-20 competition – until Rangers blocked him from doing so. As it stands, Aird remains eligible to play for either country.

“Me and Fraser talk quite often. I’m always trying to get him to come play for us,” said Gasparotto. “Of course I’d like to see a good player play for our country. It’d be a good thing, and hopefully he does one day.”

Gasparotto and Aird are throwbacks, in a way – while most other members of Canada’s current player pool have spent time with a Canadian professional club or its academy, the two Rangers youngsters went straight to Europe at a young age.

For Gasparotto, it was an intimidating transition, but he feels as though he’s become a better player as a result.

“It’s all just been a big learning experience for me. I moved away from my home, from my family at 16, across the world,” he said. “But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I’ve really enjoyed playing in Scotland.

“I’ve always been a shy player; communication’s not my strong point. But since I’ve been out on loan with these more experienced players, older players and at a higher level, you learn to communicate. ... I feel like I’m becoming more confident, more of a leader.”

Before going out on loan at Airdrieonians, Gasparotto extended his contract at Rangers and will remain at Ibrox through the 2015-16 season. He’s hoping that all the lessons he’s learned in League One and with the Canadian national team program will put him in good stead as Rangers look to complete their climb back to the Scottish Premiership for next season.

“I’m just hoping to get some more first-team time at Rangers in the future because I’ve enjoyed my first four years there and I want to continue,” said Gasparotto. “I don’t want it to come to an end.”

But for the moment, his focus is on training camp with Canada, and attempting to ingratiate himself with the senior national team. While he knows there will be plenty of games for Canada in the next few years – CONCACAF Gold Cup, World Cup qualifying, the Pan-American Games and 2016 Olympic qualifying – he’s definitely not getting ahead of himself.

“Every day I’m going to be here [in training camp], I just want to pick up things from the more experienced players,” he said. “The things the coaches are asking me to do, I’ll do them to the best of my ability… [I’ll] hopefully get some game time as well; that’d be quite amazing, and I’m really looking forward to it, if it happens.

“It’s up to the coaches and who they want to play, and it also depends on the training. … If I get picked, I’ll go out and give it all I’ve got and hopefully take the opportunity that’s been given to me.”