EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The United States is heading into World Cup qualifying this weekend riding its longest scoring drought since the end of the 1998 and the start of the 1999 season.

Heading into Sunday's game against Barbados in Carson, Calif., the United States has been blanked in three straight games with its last goal coming from Eddie Lewis in the 73rd minute of a 3-0 win over Poland on March 28.

England blanked the U.S. 2-0 on May 28. Spain posted a 1-0 shutout on Wednesday and Argentina, FIFA's top-ranked team, left the United States parched in a 0-0 tie on Sunday night before 78,682 at Giants Stadium.

"We're playing against some of the best competition that's out there," midfielder Clint Dempsey said. "I think that the goals will come, but it will always be tough to score lots of goals against teams like that. The games have been tough."

The United States struggled to get scoring chances in the games in England and Spain, but it had opportunities against Argentina.

Dempsey just missed in the first half on a shot that deflected off the leg of Gabriel Heinze of Argentina. Oguchi Onyewu had a header go off the cross bar on a corner kick early in the second half.

"Getting a tie against the No. 1-ranked team is a good feeling," Dempsey said. "We'd have liked to score some goals in these games, but now we look toward Barbados and I think we've prepared ourselves as well as we could."

The United States seemed to benefit from having forward Landon Donovan back in the lineup after missing the England and Spain games with a groin strain. He moved well and attacked the Argentine defenders at times in becoming the fourth youngest player in the world to play in his 100th international game.

"In the second half we were much better and maybe even a little unlucky not to win in the end," said the 26-year-old Donovan, who has scored 35 goals for the United States.

The reason the U.S. had a chance was the play of Tim Howard. The goalkeeper was magnificent in the first half, making seven saves, including four point-blank shots by Julio Cruz.

"You know with Argentina that they're going to have their chances no matter how well they play defensively," said Howard, who did not face a shot on goal in the second half. "Those chances seemed to come tonight as one-on-ones and, for me, that's one of my stronger points. Once I made the first save I felt comfortable and they kept coming, but our team got better as the game went on."

After losses to England and Spain, most of the U.S. players were happy with the result against Argentina, which earlier last week topped Mexico 4-1.

"The difference tonight was that we battled and concentrated for 90 minutes, whereas in the other games we caved in a little bit late on in the second half," defender Steve Cherundolo said. "We did it tonight over the whole game, and that's an important quality to draw on come World Cup qualifying."

"We're itching for that goal and hopefully it's coming next week against Barbados," Cherundolo added.

Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni felt the slate of exhibitions against three of the world's top teams helped the players get used to each other.

"At this level, it's the little things that make the difference between a good team and great team, and as long as we continue to adjust and fine tune, I think the goals and wins will come," he said. "The players are gaining experience and I think we have something very good going here with the national team."

U.S. coach Bob Bradley expects to announce his roster later this week.

For now, the order of the day is rest.

"That was a hard game tonight with lots of running," Donovan said. "They had the ball a lot. We need to get to LA, rest and recover quickly and then just start preparing for Barbados next week."