The men’s soccer team is performing a balancing act. It may be working.

The first half of Yale’s season has been highlighted by lapses in focus at crucial moments that have wasted offensive opportunities. In the past few games, the Eli defense has been rock solid, but play on the other side of the field has stumbled somewhat.

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Going into their second Ivy League contest against Cornell, the Bulldogs will look to strike a balance between offense and defense. The Elis tied their first conference match last Saturday before defeating Army earlier this week for their first win in over two weeks.

“Against Dartmouth we didn’t find the same offensive stride we had in the beginning of the year, but we were strong on the defensive end,” midfielder Jordan Raybould ’10 said. “In the Army game we started to get that balance which is going to be the key for us to score goals.”

The Bulldogs will need to channel their resurgent offense to get more points on the board and record a conference win against the Big Red. Eli forwards have been getting the ball inside the box effectively but have not been able to find the net on more than one occasion.

Yale pounded 14 shots at the Black Knight keepers but only capitalized on one of their opportunities. Several players said the errors in front of the goal stem from a lack of focus and from faulty execution up the field.

“We need to take the things that we did well [against Army] and make sure we can replicate the quality of moving the ball and the quality of play,” captain and goalkeeper Erik Geiger ’08 said. “We don’t want to be an easy team to defend against — we want to make the other team make plays.”

Cornell, who boasts a pair of veteran forwards who lead conference standings in shots per game and have racked up five goals each, will test the Yale defense. The Big Red also returned nine starters from last year’s squad. But the team from Ithaca, N.Y. has given up 10 goals in the second half, compared to just three in the opening half.

“When the other team is attacking there will be gaps,” midfielder Eric Meyer ’11 said. “If we can counter attack quickly down the sides, there might be gaps to exploit so we can get it to our forwards who are very dangerous one v. one.”

On the other side of the field, the sturdy Eli defense has been unbeatable. In the past three matches, opponents have not been able to get any of their 68 shots past both the back line and Geiger, who is the conference leader with 6.33 saves per game.

Although the team has suffered from breakdowns in concentration toward the ends of each half early in the season, Raybould said the Bulldog defense has overcome those problems.

“Everyone has stepped up on defense,” Raybould said. “No one’s letting up defensively with five minutes left. It’s like a focus point where everyone works hard to not make any mistakes. Erik [Geiger] has been phenomenal and Alex [Guzinski ’09] and Frank [Piasta ’09] have bailed us out and the midfield is defending better as a whole.”

The Bulldogs hope to use the balanced play they have improved upon in recent games to shut down the Big Red tomorrow at 7 p.m.

“Ivy games are so intense because every game is a rivalry game,” Raybould said. “Offensively we’re having good moments and defensively we’re having good moments. We need to play smart soccer, but sometimes when inside the six [yard box] it comes down to who wants it more and everyone has realized how important these games are and how hard-fought these games are.”