Bill Kostroun, Associated Press
U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey is knocked down by Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Goalkeeper Tim Howard and the United States appear ready for World Cup qualifying.

Howard had four spectacular point-blank saves on Julio Cruz, Landon Donovan made his 100th international appearance and the United States tied top-ranked Argentina 0-0 on Sunday night.

"Tonight it was about standing up for ourselves, believing we could get a result," Howard said. "We stood up to the challenge. It wasn't always pretty at times."

The match, which ended in driving rain and lightning, drew 78,682, the fourth-largest crowd to watch a soccer game at Giants Stadium and the ninth-biggest to see the U.S. national team at home.

Both teams ended short-handed. The United States lost Pablo Mastroeni to a second yellow card in the 71st minute and Argentine captain Javier Mascherano got two yellow cards in the 86th for a studs-up tackle on Donovan.

Donovan, the U.S. captain, became the fourth-youngest player in the world to make 100 international appearances at 26 years, 3 months, 4 days. According to the U.S. Soccer Federation, the only younger players with 100 were South Korea's Cha Bum-Kun, who was 24 when he reached the milestone in 1977, and Saudi Arabia's Sami Al-Jaber and Mohammed Al-Deayea, who were each 25 in 1998.

The match ended a brutal three-game stretch for the United States, which lost 2-0 at England on May 28 and 1-0 at Spain on Wednesday. The Americans open qualifying on Sunday against Barbados in Carson, Calif., while Argentina has qualifiers at home against Ecuador on Sunday and at Brazil on June 18.

While Argentina had many more quality chances, the United States came within inches of scoring twice.

Clint Dempsey had a shot deflect off an Argentine player in the first half and just go wide of the left post. Oguchi Onyewu put a header off the crossbar in the opening minutes of the second half off a corner kick.

Howard put on a show in the first half, stopping Cruz four times from close, including three on breakaways.

The goalkeeper made a sliding leg save on Cruz in the fifth minute and then got to his feet quickly to punch away the rebound attempt. Howard made another sliding stop in the 28th minute after Lionel Messi made a great pass into space to send Cruz in alone.

Howard denied Cruz again during the first-half stoppage time with a sliding arm save that had the young Argentine forward throwing his hands up in frustration while looking skyward to ask what had he done wrong.