Achilles tendon injuries mean a long and arduous recovery for any athlete. But as you might imagine, for soccer players, they’re especially troubling.

So yesterday when out gay pro soccer player Josh Cavallo took the pitch for his first action since tearing his Achilles tendon last February, it was an especially gratifying occasion.

The crowd at Coopers Stadium sensed it too, erupting with a stirring ovation once the substitution display board lit up with Cavallo’s familiar number 27.

Showing no sign of hesitancy or favoring his left leg, Cavallo jogged onto the pitch with confidence for the first time since February 19, 2023. He played the final seven minutes of the match as a substitute during Adelaide United’s 1-1 draw with Macarthur FC.

After 323 days away, following surgery and almost a year’s worth of rehab, he was back.

“I feel great,” Cavallo said during his first post match interview since the injury. “I’ve got the biggest smile on my face right now because it was a hard road. It was a long road as well and taught me patience. I had great guidance from my partner and my family who got me how I am today. And I’m really proud I could step back on that field—just want to snag a goal next time!”

Considering all the work that went into just being able to play again, it’s understandable that he would aim high.

Following surgery to repair the ruptured tendon, Cavallo had to begin his rehab with extremely basic movements, essentially learning how to walk again once he was healthy enough to get around without crutches or a moon boot.

Even after all of that progress, he couldn’t run until seven months after the operation. Cavallo used all of that down time for personal reflection and ultimately turned it into motivation.

“Being able to reflect back and to see what I had at Adelaide United, to see what I can keep doing and grow together—individually and as a team—was absolutely phenomenal, so I’m extra hungry and fiery to be back now,” he said.

His next opportunity for game action will come on January 13 when Adelaide United travels to play Sydney FC. Following that, there are 14 matches remaining on United’s schedule so Cavallo should have plenty of chances to snag his first goal after returning to action.

Watching him celebrate on two healthy legs will be Cavallo’s next inspiring moment.