Rangers youngster Luca Gasparotto shows his first-team potential on international duty

The 20-year-old centre-back was in impressive form during Canada's Olympic qualifying campaign.

Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat to the USA at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship may have ended Canada's chances of making Rio 2016, but there were still some definite positives for the Under-23s to take from the tournament.

One of those was the performances of Rangers centre-back Luca Gasparotto, who started all five games for Benito’s Floro’s side en route to a fourth-place finish in the States.

Les Rouges progressed to the semi-finals as Group A runners-up following a 3-1 loss to the US, 3-1 win over Panama and 2-2 draw with Cuba, but back-to-back 2-0 defeats to Mexico and the hosts in the third-place match after going down to 10-men for the entire second-half saw their campaign end on a disappointing note.

Nevertheless, the 6ft 2in Gasparotto gave an excellent account of himself throughout the tournament and especially during the final two matches, when the Canucks were frequently on the back foot and forced to absorb pressure for long periods.

The 20-year-old is currently on loan at Rangers’ Championship rivals Greenock Morton until January but his international form should give manager Mark Warburton some food for thought ahead of his winter return.

First joining the Scottish giants from local amateur side SC Toronto in August 2011, the Ontario-native has so far made just four appearances for the club during their 2012-13 campaign in the fourth tier, but an impressive season-long loan spell at Airdrieonians last term saw him receive some crucial first-team experience.

“I’ve always been a shy player; communication’s not my strong point," Gasparotto told MLSSoccer.com back in March. "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.

“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. I don’t want it to come to an end."

Gasparotto's recognised promise has even earned him several call-ups to the senior national team over the past 18 months and, while he has still not made his debut, a first appearance might not be far off now he is getting regular minutes at a higher level.

The left-footed stopper’s strength and aerial presence were the main assets of his game that stood out over the past fortnight against CONCACAF opposition and, with Canada’s first two World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and El Salvador coming up next month, it would not be a surprise to see him in the squad along with club teammate Fraser Aird.

At Rangers, meanwhile, Danny Wilson and Rob Kiernan are currently entrenched as Warbuton’s first-choice centre-back pairing but, with Marius Zailukas’ departure in August leaving just Tottenham Hotspur loanee Dominic Ball as cover, there should be a role for him in the squad going forward.

With his Gers contract expiring next summer, the second half of the season might prove an audition for a new deal but, give his age, international pedigree and potential, it would seem like a no-brainer for the team to offer him fresh terms at some point in the near future.

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